Social origins theory explains variation between civil societies by power relations between socioeconomic classes and by path dependencies. There have been few systematic reflections on which dimensions of civil society depend on these factors and can thus be explained by the theory. With the help of a historical narrative of the eventful history of Vienna’s civil society, in which traditional, liberal, social democratic, statist, and corporatist patterns feature, we tentatively identify ten such dimensions: CSOs’ original founding dates; fields of activity; societal roles; reliance on volunteers and paid staff; political and religious affiliation; the relationship with government when engaging in advocacy; organizational governance structures; socioeconomic characteristics of CSOs’ workforce, board members, and service recipients; CSOs’ funding sources; and CSOs’ sizes. We suggest that civil society research would benefit from the anthropological approach of deriving etic categories for comparing civil societies and explaining the similarities and differences between them by consolidating single case studies that analyze the development of specific civil societies from an emic perspective.

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