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Civil society, cross-national comparisons and the problem of statistical capture



Since the late 1980s, civil society has come to be regarded as a vital counterpart to the state and market economy in developing and transitional countries, both as a source of vital social services, and as an associational realm in which people organise to press political claims and to hold power-holders to account. Yet statistical capture of the contours of civil society, including cross-national comparisons, remains in its infancy. This article therefore considers and compares three recent indices of the cross-national strength of civil society: the 2004 John Hopkins Global Civil Society Index (JHGCSI), the 2007 CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CCSI), and the International Social Survey Programme's 2004 Survey of Global Citizenship (ISSP-SGC). The resulting analysis points to significant remaining challenges to the meaningful capture of the health of national civil societies around the world, especially in developing and transitional countries. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.