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Naumann advocated a confederation of the Central Powers integrated along economic-political lines that was to be extended after the end of the war and eventually to include large parts of Central and South-Eastern Europe.The concept achieved great popularity during the first half of the twentieth century and was crucial for National Socialist visions of Europe as well (Elvert 1999; Vermeiren 2013; Vermeiren 2016: 145-182), but lost its relevance after the end of the Second World War.
He writes: ‘By “civil society”, we refer to the aggregate of networks and institutions that either exist and act independently of the state or are I question the value of the civil society schema as a generally applicable analytic tool in explaining transition from communism, but do not question its value as a normative ideal and as a political-strategic concept in the same setting.
A notion that has great normative and political appeals to a society does not necessarily have a great explanatory power to that society.
On the one hand, Lewin, on the basis of his informative study, contends that ‘The usual antithesis of “state” versus “society” may be inadequate when one wants to explore relations between the two’ in the post-Stalin era.
On the other hand he still tries to use the civil society concept to generalize his empirical findings and thus is caught in a self-contradiction.
Secondly, we must not overlook the fact that while as a result of the rise of Communist rule after 1945 the “cognitive reconfiguration wiped out the concept of ‘Central Europe‘ from political vocabulary, restricting its usage to meteorology” lines of thinking divorced from beliefs in German hegemony.
For example, in 1918 Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first President of Czechoslovakia, envisioned Central Europe as a domain of the small, democratic states that lay between Germany and Russia.However, Keane's own statements on the subject reveal that, while his review of the classical literature illustrates the existence of ‘important differences in the geographic distribution, temporal changes and semantic variation of the distinction’ (), which have been ignored by many contemporary writers, Keane's own usage of the ‘state-civil society’ scheme demonstrates no meaningful difference from most of the other writers whom he criticized.Try to compare, for instance, , observed institutional conversion at a higher level in transitions from authoritarian rule in Southern Europe and Latin America.In the practice of social science, the most conspicuous recent attempt at theorizing about nonconformity and protest in late communism rests on the conceptual schema of ‘civil society versus the state’.Based on a case study of the institutional basis of criticism of, and dissent against, communism in China, I contend that the dichotomous concept ‘civil society versus the state’.The term does not denote a set geographical entity but represents a political and cultural construct interpreted by Europeans in different ways at different times.For this reason, it seems more appropriate to use the German term – in its various manifestations – has usually described a more or less pronounced German claim to power in certain parts of Europe (Le Rider 1994).For instance, in a recent article designed to summarize the transformation of Soviet-type regimes in accordance to the ‘civil society versus the state’ model, Weigle and Butterfield state that ‘Unable to freely choose representatives to the state and thus to influence policy or pursue private interests in a legally protected public sphere, those individuals in society who did not accept the regime's domination of public association and participation either withdrew into the private life of the family or developed alternative, underground networks of association and participation’ ( This does not mean that the Chinese opposition were not seeking legal protection for their associational freedom.They tried several times, but were rejected by the government.We are not discussing their wishes here, but the political reality they had to face and within which they operated.Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.