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By Laura K. Graham

Drawing on classes from civil society in Northern eire, past Social Capital examines the constraints of social capital thought in deeply divided societies and advances a reconceptualization of the bonding-bridging distinction.

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Additional info for Beyond Social Capital: The Role of Leadership, Trust and Government Policy in Northern Ireland's Victim Support Groups

Sample text

Since this argument is at the core of my investigation of Northern Ireland’s victim support groups, I will defer analysis of this topic for the discussion that follows in the remaining chapters of this book. Finally, Brewer (2010:31), adopting the view of civil society as voluntary associations, argues that civil society is a crucial agent in peace processes, but that the space for civil society is often lacking in transitional and post-conflict settings, such that peacemaking and compromise are difficult objectives to achieve.

Even where civil society is strong, as it is in both Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka, Brewer finds that peace processes are fragile due to the types of communal violence suffered in these societies. Yet, Brewer contends that civil society is the “cornerstone” of social peace processes, and for that reason, it is necessary to consider the role of civil society in peace processes. To that end, Brewer (2010:55–6) offers four spaces that civil society occupies during peace processes: 1. Intellectual spaces, in which alternative ideas are envisaged and peace envisioned and in which the private troubles of people are reflected upon intellectually as emerging policy questions that are relevant to them as civil society groups.

Civil Society as the Public Sphere This view of civil society is contained in Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (see English translation in Burger and Lawrence, 1989). For Habermas, the public sphere acts as a space where discourse is used to resolve social and political disputes (see Farrington 2004). The public sphere is “an arena for contestation” where civil society is “steered by its members through shared meanings” and political debate (Habermas cited in Edwards 2014:8–9).

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