Projects per year
Discussion about, and analysis of, the question of definition and the third sector and civil society more generally has developed to a significant degree in recent years. This paper can be located in a new phase of recent research, which seeks to attend to the historical, cultural and politically contingent nature of this domain's boundaries. The process of constituting the sector is discussed as the product of new discourses of decontestation and contention within third sector policy and practice. It takes England as a case study, drawing on evidence and argument assembled by the authors in recent and ongoing research efforts, variously conducted with the support of the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) and the European Commission. The paper proceeds by discussing relevant literature; describing recent patterns of policy institutionalisation; and then tries to draw out more analytically how this process of constitution has been associated not so much with a stable and consistent set of definitions and constructs, but rather with unstable and changing formulations, which reflect the playing out of a dual process of decontestation and contention.
- Third sector