This working paper provides a review of the literature addressing the role of civil society or non-state actors in democratic consolidation, with particular reference to Malawi. Civil society comprises private businesses; media organisations; political parties; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or voluntary associations, or more generally civil society organisations (CSOs); interest organisations, such as trade unions, confederations of employers and businesses, farmers' associations, etc. Special attention is drawn to the question whether the concept of civil society and its diverse operationalisations emanating from European and North American contexts travel well to empirical realities elsewhere. The problem of donor dependence is also discussed.