Working and briefing paper series: 42
Constituting the third sector: processes of decontestation and contention under the UK Labour governments in England
Building on the previous work on ‘strategic unity’, this paper discusses how the question of definition and the third sector and civil society more generally has developed in recent years. The paper can be located in a new phase of conceptual research, which seeks to attend to the historical, cultural and politically contingent nature of this domain’s boundaries. It takes England as a case study, drawing on evidence and argument assembled by the authors in recent and ongoing research. It summarises relevant literature; describing recent patterns of policy institutionalisation; and then tries to draw out more analytically how this process has indeed not been associated 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.