The article draws upon the discussion of the work of the French sociologist Alain Touraine in order to put forward a conceptualization of the relationship between social movements and civil society in a neofunctionalist framework. Challenging the marxist model and those which share its utilitarian assumptions, though not necessarily teleological, the author emphasizes the symbolic and cultural elements in the constitution of social movements and the role of contingency in history. He also criticizes the idea that the "new social movements" might have a revolutionary character. Alternatively, he sustains that social movements are the translation of civil society, whithin which inclusions and exclusions, as well as the very community, are defined. Social movements operate also an articulation, to a great extent of a discursive character, of the problems in particular institutional spheres of society with the metalanguage of civil society.
Social Movements; Civil society; Neofunctionalism; Culture; Collective action