We have often been asked about how do we define 'civil society' with often the usual barb about where is your legitimacy? How can NGOs alone be civil society (usually be academics who disagree with the content of what is said. Two Indian political science theorists who write about it are Partha Chatterjee and Sudipto Kaviraj. Chatterjee using a new phrase of 'political society' as an alternative.
At KICS it will help us to clarify and have a discussion on what exactly we mean by civil society and how we use it. I came across this piece by Sanjeeb Mukherjee in EPW and found it quite interesting, more perhaps for its ideas on how civil society in non-western cultures need to be seen differently. Sanjeeb draws upon Tagore and Aurobindo to suggest the existence, quite strongly, of the notion of 'samaj'. I would have thought the idea of Gandhi's oceanic circles has a vision of polity that needs more fleshing out and the broad sense in which many of us tend to use civil society. Sanjeeb alludes to it but perhaps does not go into any detail.
Civil Society in the East, and the Prospects of Political Society, Sanjeeb Mukherjee, EPW, January 30, 2010