Civil Society, Philanthropy and the Fate of the Commons

Book List
Publishing information: 
Bruce R. Sievers Medford, Massachusetts: Tufts University Press, 2010. 205pp. Softback ISBN 978-1-58465-895-5. £28.50.

According to the back jacket text which echoes statements made by many politicians: “Among the greatest challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century is that of sustaining a healthy civil society, which depends upon managing the tension between individual and collective interests”. This slim but ambitious volume attempts to clarify the concept of ‘civil society’, provides the historical backdrop to the contemporary challenge by tracing the development of civil society and philanthropy in the West, and offers an analysis of their role in solving the problems faced by modern liberal democracies. Sievers argues that the first civil society was the 17th century Dutch republic – an unusually Eurocentric view for a US-based academic! This is a significant book on an important subject that repays careful reading.