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The Relationship between Civil Society & Democracy

Thu, June 30, 3:30 to 5:00pm, Campus Ersta, Sal 4

Session Submission Type: Panel


The historians and political theorist in this panel explore the relationship between civil society and democracy both past and present, and throughout the globe. Focusing on voluntary societies and civil society in eighteenth-century Ireland, for example, Karen Sonnelitter argues that improvement was a concern of the state as well as private individuals and voluntary societies. She claims that, together, these movements aspired to purge Ireland of what they saw as destabilizing factors that weakened the nation. Philanthropists and Improvers reflected Enlightenment era optimism about the perfectibility of society and saw themselves as serving both the welfare of society and interests and aspirations of the nation. Examining how U.S. philanthropic foundations conceptualized and endeavored to promote Soviet democratization from 1986 to 1991, Kate Geoghegan traces the expansion and transformation of U.S. foundation activity in the USSR by comparing the efforts of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), George Soros, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY). Elizabeth Harmon studies the beginning of the separations between the for-profit, nonprofit, and government sectors and how the form and function of American corporations have defied them. By combining the histories of nonprofit and for-profit corporate policy in this period, she sheds new light on the shifting relations between private profit and public good in American corporate policy. Writing on the justifiability of intergenerational transfers, Theodore Lechterman concludes that while taking the interest in generational sovereignty seriously does not require the abolition of charitable bequests and trusts, it does tell in favor of tighter regulations than most legal systems currently recognize.

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