The Culture of Democracy: A Sociological Approach to Civil Society

Polity Press, 2022

Available for order in the UK and the US at Polity & Amazon


Against the bleak backdrop of pressing issues in today’s world, civil societies remain vibrant, animated by people’s belief that they should and can solve such issues and build a better society. Their imagination of a good society, their understanding of their engagement, and the ways they choose to act constitute the cultural aspect of civil society.

Central to this cultural aspect of civil society is the “culture of democracy,” including normative values, individual interpretations, and interaction norms pertaining to features of a democratic society, such as civility, independence, and solidarity. The culture of democracy varies in different contexts and faces challenges, but it shapes civic actions, alters political and social processes, and thus is the soul of modern civil societies.

The Culture of Democracy provides the first systematic survey of the cultural sociology of civil society and offers a committed global perspective. It shows that, as everyone is eager to have their voice heard, cultural sociology can serve as an “art of listening,” a thoroughly empirical approach that takes ideas, meanings, and opinions seriously, for people to contemplate significant theoretical and public issues.

Outline of Chapters

Chapter 1 Introduction: The Culture of Democracy

Chapter 2 Values, Codes, and Discourses in the Public Sphere

Chapter 3 Culture in Associational Life

Chapter 4 Culture in Civic Engagement

Chapter 5 The Culture of Democracy Under Undemocratic States

Chapter 6 Global Civil Society

Chapter 7 Cultural Sociology as an Art of Listening

Advance Endorsement

“Bin Xu has written a fine work: subtle, clear, and analytically precise, with great outreach to the wide scope of contemporary discussion. Xu demonstrates why cultural sociology is necessary if we are to understand not only democracy but its enemies.” Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University
“This is the book I’ve been waiting for. Ranging across sociologies and their kin, using empirical cases of civil societies both within democracies and struggling against authoritarianisms, and invoking a theoretical sophistication that is respectful of variety but focused on driving culture’s significance home, Bin Xu elaborates both the scholarly sense and public consequence of civil society’s mobilization. I know what my students will be reading next.” Michael D. Kennedy, Brown University