The realm of social (privately owned, market directed, voluntarily run or friendship-based) activities which are legally recognized and guaranteed by the state.
Keane, John. Democracy and Civil Society. London: Verso. 1988: 3
[Civil society] connotes those areas of social life – the domestic world, the economic sphere, cultural activities and political interaction – which are organized by private or voluntary arrangements between individuals and groups outside the direct control of the state.
Held, David. Political Theory and the Modern State. Cambridge: Polity Press. 1989:6
Society minus the state.
Shaw, Martin. "Civil society and global politics: beyond a social movements approach." Millennium-Journal of International Studies 23.3 1994:647.