Models of European Civil Societies.

Transnational Perspectives on Forming of Modern Societies in Central Europe.

The topic of the Copernicus Graduate School is: "Models of European Civil Societies. Transnational Perspectives on Forming of Modern Societies in Central Europe."

The subjects of the CGS are the forms and development level of self-the organisation of modern societies. The aim is to study the extent to which civil society influences the processes of norm creation, conflict design and the preservation of tolerance. It concerns societies created in the national way being in a process of modernisation. Another aim is to analyse the extent to which civil society serves as a constructive and regulative element of the functionality of modern societies.

The main aspects of the work are presented in a comparative way. This should facilitate a comparably intensive access for different social scientists. They are supposed to critically debate the thesis concerning self-organisation in the modern world. Based on case studies from Central Europe, they will also supply meaning patterns for a typology of different ways towards a European civil society. The diversity of phenomena in an integrated historic process will be shown. Such a way of working on topics makes a claim of society-related research in which civil society is taken as an explanation pattern and functional imperative. Thus, a dialogue between science and politics can develop.

The research is divided into the following five thematic sections:

(1) The civil society contours of the nation

It is worth noting that a civil society paradigm in modern nation-building processes is hardly used explicitly in the nationalism research. Such an approach would be very suitable as an explanation pattern for the role of democracy and violence as well as the relations of individuals in a large group. Undoubtedly, the modern nation is an organisational form of modern mass societies. It serves to ensure existence conditions, set objectives and boost the attributes of civil society. It realises the promise of solidarity and community, which makes the nation attractive for masses and builds an identity. Without structures of self-organisation in the civil society, the implementation of the national thought is unthinkable. A self-organisational commitment to the nation gives people a sense of bonding and mobilises them. Thus, nationalised societies are able to work. Individuals have to adjust their life projects to the society and thus have their need for security satisfied. A national movement is strong and stable if it understands the necessity and possibility of shaping the society with the idea of nation as well as the functionality of the civil society. Feasibility is perceived here as an essential moment of civilisation.

(2) Tradition and innovation (change)

Changes develop both an innovative and destructive potential. Conversion processes can be interpreted as progress, modernisation and advancement, as well as decline, degeneration and disaster. Deconstructions of the accepted normality are always moments of great social intensity which need a collective comment and classification in memory culture. The elites adopt an intermediary role between a social event and its interpretation in the true sense of the "positivity of discourse" (Foucault).

The focus is on the social action, i.e. the conscious process of individuals aimed at creating favourable conditions for their existence. There is an awareness of the need for organising principles that bring benefits to the stability of the society. In this regard, what should be considered more closely is the hitherto neglected aspect of the persistence of the "old" society, adherence to traditions and accepted standards of behaviour in terms of a canon of values, such as memory culture, regional identity and confession. This should be examined on the basis of self-organisation and answer the following questions concerning the communication between politics and society: to what extent do the reflections of masses and elites agree about the state of the society, and to what extent have the elites created this.

Here, the elements that are seen as both traditional and preserving the social equilibrium, as well as creating a basis for the acceptance of new values that hold together the mechanism of a society in reality should be identified. How do elites communicate within forms of the self-organisation of the society and what role do tradition and values play in this?

(3) Creating norms and the preservation of tolerance (civil society and the state)

Civil society has its sources mainly in its own systems of norms. There also lays its responsibility. Actually, it is much more dependent on complying with norms than the state. The state can ignore its discipline. History shows that it sets norms only to present itself. The state also has the means to enforce the norms that exclude themselves in a civil society. The state can cope with an anomy (Emile Durkheim) of losing the authority of traditional norms. The civil society ceases to exist in such a case. The state promises security and supports an individual with codification and the available tools. The civil society feels responsible for ensuring that the citizen receives orientation and safety. Understanding and inner commitment are essential for the citizen to perceive the limitation of freedom as a responsibility. Living conditions correspond to it in the long term, and socialisation occurs. This is ultimately a social discipline process that generates a new type of behaviour bringing expectable benefits to the society with reliable motivation. However, a self-organisation does not take place outside the state, but it is different from the state organisation. In a spontaneous creation of order, the distributed knowledge of all people is implemented in a way that the construction planned by a human never could (Friedrich von Hayek).

(4) Civil society and foreign cultures

The subject of the research is the role of migration and minorities in shaping social milieus. Modernisation processes and social upheavals would lead to a dissolution of traditional life conditions established by migration processes, mutual re-evaluation and sociocultural mechanisms of distinction. They would also develop a high conflict potential. The focus is set on foreignness and integration in the course of the development of modern societies as well as on the question of the impact of the processes of inclusion and exclusion regarding emancipation, modernisation and the development of civil-society structures.

It is necessary to examine to what extent the sharpening of social contours has been a part of the ethnic-cultural differentiation within civil society or if it caused this differentiation. The development of comparable structural elements of civil society and group behaviour may lead to a symbiotic effect within modernisation, which would open the way to the establishment of foreign groups.

(5) City and region: local perspectives on the civil society

Civil society is not a static or abstract element of a human being's form of existence, but it is a functional priority of group behaviour. Civil societal activity is connected with regulatory framework, which also depends on local and regional prerequisites. It creates the behaviour of big and small groups, and also determines specifics of democratic participation in the processes of decision making, identity building and conflict solution. The urban areas traditionally have a high level of self-organisation and frequently serve as a model for the introduction of civil societal structures or behaviour patterns in large forms of organisation. On the other hand, local communities have their characteristics which make them develop different communication forms on the basis of their smaller density. The problem field of a city and region is suitable for the research of civil society as micro studies as well as for comparison in the land and city perspective. Also, the role of smaller structures in the perspective of the whole society may be analysed.