Most recent discussions of civil society begin by pointing to the widespread and overinflated usage of the category by both analysts and social and political actors throughout the world. This statement of fact is usually followed by a critical reconstruction of the analytical, normative, and practical- programmatic ambiguities, if not outright confusions, that are built into the contemporary usages of the concept of civil society. Moreover, the call for analytical clarity is often accompanied by a cautious and sobering, if not outright pessimistic, reassesment of the prospects for the actual emergence and institutionalization of civil societies beyond the real existing civil societies of the civilized West. 1