This thesis constitutes an inquiry into the relationship between civil society theory and democratic theory. It revolves around an investigation into, and comparison between, recent discourses on civil society originating from within diverse political contexts. This is in order to uncover what the central claims - both normative and programmatic - of civil society theory are in the contemporary era, how these relate to the political contexts\ud within which they have originated, and why they reemerged when they did. The findings from this investigation then provided the material for a substantive critique of the overall coherence of recent civil society theory, and of the contribution of the idea of civil society to democratic theory and practice; they also enable a comparison of current ideas about civil society with classical civil society theory.\ud \ud The thesis presents a number of new arguments. Firstly, that all models of civil society,since their revival in the 1970s, make assumptions - though often hidden or unconscious\ud - about what democracy is and of where it should take place. Secondly, recent notions of civil society are divided most clearly into radical and liberal-democratic models, with crucial implications for how civil society is conceived. Thirdly, civil society theory illustrates the close linkages between political ideas and the political base within which they are articulated; political discourse, despite its power to shape the political context,\ud must itself evolve in accordance with the exigencies of the political base if it is to survive. Fourthly, contemporary civil society theory has shifted in a crucial aspect from classical civil society theory: while the latter was tied closely to liberalism, today's civil society theory is connected almost exclusively to democratic theory. Finally, it is argued that recent civil society theory adds little that is original to the lexicon of political theory. For\ud despite the novelty of radical models of civil society from the 1970s and early 1980s (which, it is argued, have not retained their initial force), the idea of civil society figures increasingly as a rubric for already established liberal democratic orthodoxies about the desired relationship between the state and society.\ud \u
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