Cultures of democracy

A civil society approach

Authored by: Ming-Cheng M. Lo

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter addresses how members of civil society face the challenging task of establishing and sustaining cultural norms to enable meaningful conversations across deep social divides. Some scholars have shown that the ethic of civic solidarity (or the “code of liberty”) provides a broad cultural vocabulary for civil society discourses. Others have emphasized that civic organizations and social movement networks facilitate resistance, self-empowerment, and creative cultural expression. Still others have shown that group customs and styles shape a civic group’s capacity for social reflexivity and self-restraint. Recently, studies of non-Western cases further suggest that the code of liberty does not define the only civic ethics. Historically, cultural vocabularies that share similar functions but differ in content have developed elsewhere, through the process of modularization. Recognizing this process opens up questions about code competition and hybridization, for example, between religious values and democratic ones, between the ethics of caring and empathy and those of liberty and justice, between the principle of communal coherence and the value of diversity. Future research can benefit from more systematic comparisons, especially across Western and non-Western contexts, of how different societies operate with hybridized cultural discourses in democratic institutions.

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