In this contribution to contemporary political philosophy, Jensen aims to develop a model of civil society for deliberative democracy. In the course of developing the model, he also provides a thorough account of the meaning and use of "civil society" in contemporary scholarship as well as a critical review of rival models, including those found in the work of scholars such as John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas, Michael Walzer, Benjamin Barber, and Nancy Rosenblum. Jensen's own ideal treats civil society as both the context in which citizens live out their comprehensive views of the good life as well as the context in which citizens learn to be good deliberative democrats. According to his idealization, groups of citizens in civil society are actively engaged in a grand conversation about the nature of the good life. Their commitment to this conversation grounds dispositions of epistemic humility, tolerance, curiosity, and moderation. Moreover, their regard for the grand conversation explains their interest in deliberative democracy and their regard for democratic virtues, principles, and practices.
Jensen is not a naive utopian, however; he argues that this ideal must be realized in stages, that it faces a variety of barriers, and that it cannot be realized without luck.