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By Richard, Waisman, Carlos H., Zamosc, Leon Feinberg

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The first case of civil society action in democratized settings in Latin America could be described as a more liberal form of civil society organization. This case has the following characteristics: first, civil society represents a cultural innovation in a liberal order that has been ambiguous in relation to democracy and the rule of law: civil society organizations target the courts and the executive in order to make them more accountable to citizens. Yet, civil society organizations do not seek to redefine the boundaries between civil society, political society, and the state.

Thus, the idea and the concept of civil society remained alien to the Latin American political and social scenes until the twentieth century. The concept of civil society reemerged in the late twentiethcentury political and social scene that was in two strong ways different from its nineteenth-century meaning: it involved a tripartite meaning according to which civil society is differentiated from both the market and the state and as a concept which sought to explain social processes taking place in the West, the East, and Latin American societies (Cohen and Arato 1992; Habermas 1995; Keane 1998).

The reaction to neoliberalism involved, from the very beginning, the organization of civil society in Chile and Mexico. Though the emergence of neoliberalism in Brazil took place much later, it also played a role not in the emergence but in the occupation of alternative spaces by civil society (Dagnino 2002). The last overlapping aspect between all the cases is the role the civic associations played both in the transition process and the reaction to neoliberalism: in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, civil society involved the entrance of new actors on the political stage (Avritzer 1998; Ramirez 1990; Tarres 1992; Oxhorn 1995) and an increase in associative patterns.

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