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Focusing on contemporary Latin American experiences and drawing principally on the case of Brazil, this essay traces the genealogy of civil society and analyzes how diverse currents of “civil society talk” converged to produce what this chapter calls the Civil Society Agenda: a hegemonic though contested set of normative and prescriptive assumptions about citizen participation that have deeply shaped the discourses and practices of both governments and social movements in the Americas. That agenda prescribes what actors operating in the space of civil society should do and how and to what end they should act and “participate.” The essay then turns to an exploration of the various ways in which civil society and civic participation are invoked by and implicated in diverse practices of government, namely, Governance, Governability, and Governmentality. The chapter ends with a consideration of how activists and scholars might unsettle and move beyond the reigning Civil Society Agenda.

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