Civil Society: Concepts, Features, Structure 

Self-aware, responsible, and free. This is roughly how Ukrainians imagine the modern progressive citizens of their country. But the essence and structure of civil society is actually very complex and is constantly in the process of development. Due to the frantic rhythm and dynamism of the modern world, it is difficult to grasp what influences the community the most. But there are things that remain stable: values, understanding of self as part of the nation, and the conditions in which the population lives. So, what does an active civil society consist of and what functions does it perform?

Every citizen of Ukraine has a formed set of values that affect the overall structure and principles of self-organization of civil society. It reflects in the attitude of citizens to the state as a whole, their responsibilities, their interaction with each other, and so on. There are a few interdependent components that are vital for a full-functioning civil society. Those are a person, a state and a system of values. It is believed that civil society and its structure appeared before the state and its institutions. And the development of the state required a legal culture, a perception of a person as the greatest value, market and private property, internal and external freedom. But now it has become clear that it is specifically the state that must protect the interests of the public. The concepts, features and structure of civil society cannot exist without the state and outside it. That is, a developed civil society is somewhat a regulator of community and state life.

The most important thing to understand is that the concept and structure of civil society have nothing to do with the political system. In the context of civil society we are talking about the opportunity for population to unite its efforts around a certain goal, to feel personal importance in the decisions made by authorities and to have opportunity to monitor those decisions, and to take chances to participate in discussions on the ground. To put it simply, the community should be involved in the decisions that affect it directly. This could be a decision for example about cutting down the trees down on the streets, or the demolition of a local playground, among other issues. Uniting active citizens (free from state influence), ensuring freedoms and equal rights, supporting economic well-being in order to ensure basic human needs (developed market, healthy competition, ability to own property, exchange and so on) and most importantly, respecting human rights, are all signs of and structural organization of civil society.

The structure and functions of civil society provide an opportunity for the community to self-organize when making socially important decisions, monitoring the effectiveness of government activities and proposing their solutions or views on specific events. It is important that people have access to information, because only that way they can understand the mechanisms of influence and decision-making, and control the implementation of those decisions made. Because very often the community learns about any changes or suggestions after implementation of decisions. Here an important mission is performed by the media, which needs to promptly and clearly inform people about events. Also, for overvision of authorities every community can select its own group of people, who know about current events and decisions, to represent them in meetings and discussion groups. But above all, civil society must play a socializing role—that is, to promote various charitable and socially useful causes, encourage activities of creative teams and associations that help people from vulnerable groups to feel like functioning members in the community.

The very essence and structure of civil society are determined by political, social and cultural, economic and informational systems. Each of them includes characteristics of specific relations between people, objects and phenomenons that influence the overall picture of the country. For example, the informational system includes the concept of human communication over media. Private companies, civil society organizations, communities connected to the government sector and various creative communities can all be part of the informational system. Summarizing all the above, civil society is based on the mechanism of social interaction.

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