Beyond liberal civil society: Confucian familism and relational strangership

Philosophy East and West 60 (4):476-498 (2010)
In Conditions of Liberty, Ernest Gellner defines civil society as a unique modern condition in which a "modal self"—a moral agent liberated from "the tyranny of cousins or of rituals"—entertains an unprecedented amount of personal freedom.1 Otherwise stated, moral individualism is the foundation of a modern civil society where people encounter each other qua individuals (i.e., strangers). In line with this view, the predominant, formal-judicial, understanding of civil society in the recent social sciences2 is too limited, because its exclusive emphasis on the notion of society as standing between the family and the state obliterates the moral significance of civil society as a home for individual agency and ..
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