This introduction will tackle two issues. The first is theoretical: a framework will be proposed with which to approach the activity of nonprofit organizations within civil society in modern democracies. Whereas the traditional approach posits three sectors in a triangular setting (the top corner occupied by the government, the bottom-right corner occupied by the market, and the bottom left corner by the “third sector”), a better conceptualization defines civil society as a social space between the state (located above) and the individual or the private sphere (located below). This space is where for-profit organizations (usually clustered in one side of the space), nonprofit organizations (usually grouped in the other), and organizations that share characteristics of both (situated in the middle) reside and develop modes of coexistence (sometimes in tension and sometimes in partnership). This spatial model enables better understanding of the dynamics that occur when the state removes itself from segments of civil society by “ascending” (as is the case when the state stops providing some services and deregulates the services it has outsourced), or conversely, when the state interjects itself into segments of the civil society by “descending,” either via direct provision of services or by tight regulation of such provision. Moreover, this spatial conceptualization allows us to better understand the interaction of nonprofit organizations with state agencies, with forprofit organizations, and with individual members of the society, who are the potential volunteers in the nonprofit organization, the audience for their call for social change or the recipients of their services.



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