Civil Society has not been more relevant as a concept and a practice since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Global events from Tahir Square to Wall St have brought a new relevance and urgency to questions about the boundaries of legitimate dissent and public order policing, the meaning of tolerance in the context of conflicting rights claims, and how we can agree on the shared values of the ’good society’. This timely book examines the representation of civil society in news media, exploring the popular understanding of this contested space in relation to conflicting legitimating frames: as the neo-liberal Big Society, activist political participation, or postmodern apolitical tolerance. With close reference to prominent news stories, including the UK state visit of Pope Benedict XVI, anti-austerity protests and industrial action, police infiltration of the environmental movement, and the Occupy camp at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, News and Civil Society scrutinises different facets of contemporary civil society, civility and civic virtue. A cross-disciplinary engagement with questions of national identity and pluralism, civil liberties and dissent, power and accountability, this book will appeal to those with interests in media, journalism, sociology, citizenship and political studies.
Jen Birks is Lecturer in Media at the University of Nottingham, UK.
’A fascinating examination of the ways in which dissent is represented and debated in the British press, bringing a sophisticated insight to questions of fairness, legitimacy and justice, and raising questions about the nature of contemporary civil society and the role of the news media. This book will provide sustenance to anyone who wants to think intelligently about promoting alternatives to the status quo.’ Justin Lewis, Cardiff University, UK ’In an era of crass marketisation and seeming-political disengagement, Jen Birks’ excellent book re-situates civil society at the centre of discussions on news media. Offering an adroit and learned analysis of the British press, rarely pulling its punches and mixing contemporary vitality with an admirable conceptual depth this will be essential reading to all those concerned with the health of our mediated democracy.’ Michael Higgins, University of Strathclyde, UK ’The great virtue of Birks' study is the clarity and depth of her analysis, which provides a vital corrective to the propagation of myths about the role of media forms in the reproduction of civil society and citizenship. This is a finely nuanced work that examines the subtlety of human and institutional behaviour, placing contemporary protest and dissent at the heart of a vital debate.' Stuart Price, De Montfort University, UK