Measuring and Comparing Civil Societies

Mark Lyons


In most countries (Australia is an exception) the term ‘civil society’ is widely used by social researchers, activists and government officials. However its analytical value is limited by its great variety of meanings. The article proposes that if ‘civil society’ is to be of any use analytically it should be capable of being measured. It outlines two related efforts to measure civil society and to compare it cross nationally and identifies several problems with those approaches.

Full Text:



Anheier, H. 2004, Civil Society: Measurement, Evaluation, Policy, Earthscan, London.

Brennan, G. & Castles, F.G. (eds) 2002, Australia Reshaped: 200 Years of Institutional Transformation, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Civicus 1997, The New Civic Atlas: Profiles of Civil Society in 60 Countries, Civicus, Washington.

Cohen, J.L. & Arato, A. 1992, Civil Society and Political Theory, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Cox, E. 1995, A Truly Civil Society, ABC Books, Sydney.

De Oliveira, M.D. & Tandon, R. (eds) 1994, Citizens: Strengthening Global Civil Society, Civicus, Washington.

Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division 2003, Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts, United Nations, New York.

Edwards, M. 2004, Civil Society, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Ehrenberg, J. 1999, Civil Society: The Critical History of an Idea, New York University Press, New York.

Heinrich, V.F. 2005, 'Studying Civil Society Across the World: Exploring the Thorny Issues of Conceptualisation and Measurement', Journal of Civil Society, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 211-228.

Heinrich, V.F. (ed.) 2007, Civicus Global Survey of the State of Civil Society, Volume 1 Country Profiles, vol. 1, Kumarian Press, Bloomfield Conn.

Keene, J. 2003, Global Civil Society?, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Salamon, L.M., Anheier, H.K., List, R., Toepler, S., Sokolowski, S.W. & Associates 1999, Global Civil Society: Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector, The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, Baltimore.

Salamon, L.M. & Sokolowski, S.W. 2004, 'Measuring Civil Society: the Johns Hopkins Global Civil Society Index', in L.M. Salamon, S.W. Sokolowski & Associates (eds), Global Civil Society: Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector, Volume 2, Kumarian Press, Bloomfield Conn.



Share this article: