As the evolution of modern welfare states increased the scope and depth of government activities, there was a consequent impact upon political behaviour. Citizens became more politicized and governments became more dependent on an array of groups for cooperation and compliance (Kavanagh et al., 2006: 422). The study of groups and group behaviour became an important part of political science (Latham, 1952; Finer, 1958; Eckstein, 1963; Castles, 1967; Olson, 1971) and it was widely acknowledged that ‘civil society’ — that is the ‘space’ of organized activity that is not undertaken by either the Government or private business — is an important part of all healthy democracies (Putnam, 1993, 2000; Edwards, 2004). Although distinct definitions of civil society vary, they usually include formal and informal associations, such as philanthropic organizations; informal citizen groups and social movements; voluntary and community groups; trade unions; professional and business associations; faith-based organizations; and cooperatives and mutuals. Participation in or membership of such organizations is voluntary in nature. Taken together, these organizations are sometimes referred to as ‘the third sector’ (RIA, 2006; see also Acheson et al., 2004).
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