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2010 | 9 | 3(28) | 397-407

Article title

COMMUNITARIAN PHILOSOPHY AND TOCQUEVILLE (Filozofia komunitarianizmu i Tocqueville)


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Small mistakes in the English translation appear significant enough to force us to think that Tocqueville understood the term 'civil society' in a completely different way than his contemporaries, i.e., Hegel and Marx. In their works, civil society as bourgeois or market society was a sphere of economic activity, 'system of needs' fulfilling the desires of consumers through work of producers. Misunderstanding of Tocqueville stems from the long tradition of mistakes in English translations and the lack of a concept of 'civil law company' in the Anglo-Saxon world, corresponding to the 'German Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts' - imposed upon whole continental Europe by Bonaparte with his Civil Code. To get out of semantic confusion is to take that Tocqueville, while writing about civil(ian) associations, thought rather of business companies than nongovernmental organizations. Contemporary appropriation of Tocqueville's work by communitarians as apologists of a third sector is ungrounded and mistaken. Tocqueville was writing about America in liberal rather than republican spirit.


  • Pawel Zaleski, Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN, ul. Nowy Swiat 72, 00-330 Warszawa, Poland


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