Politicians and sociologists agree that the question of determining the characteristic features of the civil society is rather controversial because there are a lot of details and aspects to take into consideration. Nevertheless, the notion of civil society is closely associated with such concepts as social or collective rights and freedoms.
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From this point, it is possible to state that the civil society is the society in which collective interests of individuals are met with references to their personal freedoms and rights as citizens. That is why, it is important to pay attention to the rights and freedoms of all the citizens in the society to discuss it as civil.
Although the ideas of providing equal rights and freedoms should be followed without references to the people’s race, gender, and class, there are a lot of examples in history when these principles are violated in relation to such phenomena as discrimination, colonialism, or slavery; that is why, the question of the citizens’ responsibility should be discussed from this point, and social freedoms and rights should be really equal for everyone in the civil society.
During the 18th-19th century, the Westerners justified their actions and the ideas of colonialism and slavery from the point of necessity to civilise the population of the colonised territories. However, the actions of colonists were based only on the economic reasons.
Thus, Britain colonised the African lands, and “the biggest prize won by Britain is control over local trade. Once, this had meant gold and enslaved humans…” (Getz & Clarke, 2011, p. 5). Basing on the story of Abina Mansah, it is impossible to speak about civilising those people who became considered as slaves.
Moreover, it is important not to combine the notions of ‘civil’ and ‘civilised’ world. It is possible to civilise people forcibly, but it does not mean that civil rights will be equal for them. During the 1980s, “barriers to civil right were overcome” with references to the racial discrimination (Katznelson, 2006, p. 5). That is why, developing the modern civil society today, it is necessary for the governors to take responsibility for providing all the citizens with the civil rights, and the citizens’ task is to control the process.
The civil society is based on collective interests, and these interests should be satisfied. The citizens’ responsibility is in preventing the development of the racial, gender, and class discrimination, depending on the concept of the equal rights and freedoms. Social freedom should not be dependent on some paper as it is stated in Abina and the important men, “What is free? You can get a piece of paper saying you’re free, and then you can leave anywhere you want” (Getz & Clarke, 2011, p. 9).
Thus, the claim that “white America must accept responsibility” should be relevant for all the citizens in spite of their race to follow the principle of equality in rights, but the issue of racial discrimination should be discussed more properly (Katznelson, 2006, p. 89).
Following citizenship responsibilities, people receive the citizenship rewards. This idea can be also discussed as one of the principles of the civil society’s development. Thus, it is the citizens’ responsibility to prevent the issues of the social discrimination according to race, gender, class, and possible social degradation as a result of violating civil norms.
Getz, T. R., & Clarke, L. (2011). Abina and the important men: A graphic history. USA: Oxford University Press.
Katznelson, I. (2006). When affirmative action was white: An untold history of racial inequality in twentieth-century America. USA: W. W. Norton & Company.