Politics in Minutes (2016)

Civil society

Politics, contrary to the impression most people have, is not confined to the activities of political parties and the business of government. While government makes and administers the laws affecting society as a whole, there are also organizations, associations, communities and networks – separate from commercial business and the state – that form around a common interest or activity.

These social groups operate in the sphere between the individual and the state known as civil society. They include religious and charitable organizations, sporting and social associations, and local community groups, but also movements with more specific objectives. These are often referred to as NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and many of them campaign to influence government policy on specific issues, such as the environment, health or human rights. Some, such as Greenpeace and Oxfam, have become large international organizations, while others exert only local influence.