This article aims to reconceptualize civil society with a particular focus on gender perspectives. Civil society, an arena of social interaction often presumed capable of fostering the empowerment of citizens, is recognized as the basis for democratic politics. To feminists, however, civil society does not necessarily have such positive connotations. Although women have been actively involved in social movements and other kinds of voluntary activities, feminist scholars have paid little attention to these activities in the context of civil society. Some feminist theorists are explicitly critical of civil society. First of all, this article examines feminist criticisms of civil society. Feminists oppose clear-cut boundaries dividing the lifeworld into the private sphere, civil society, and the state. By highlighting the problems associated with these boundaries, I attempt to reframe the concept of civil society. My approach follows the work of Iris Young, who conceptualizes civil society as a collection of three porous, overlapping associative activities—private, civic, and political associations. Young's work not only transcends the problem of boundaries, but also addresses the ongoing debates between liberal and critical theorists. However, it leaves room for further examination: Should any of these boundaries be dissolved? Specifically, the question remains as to whether the family is divided from civil society. In addressing the question, I posit an alternative model comprising the family, the three associative activities, and state political institutions. These elements are intertwined such that their boundaries are effectively seamless. The proposed model offers a wider approach to civil society, shedding light on the interplay between civil society and everyday life as well as state political institutions. Throughout the article, I argue that gender perspectives contribute to how civil society should be conceptualized.
2012. Vol. 8, no 2, 101-121 p.