This text analyses the discursive field of the third sector and its social actors from the viewpoint of the theoretical articulation between the strategic relational approach, the theory of complex autopoietic systems and cybernetics. Centring on the concept of observation, the text develops four propositions on the third sector. First, it is a “discursive field” where discourses and practices reflect and shape actors’ structural selectivities and strategies. Second, it is a relational category, constructed through a set of relations that are established between different modes of organising social relations. Third, it is contextual, shaped by the spatio-temporal configurations of the societies in which it is set up and of the concrete conditions in which the transition from Fordism to post-Fordism occurred. Fourth, the semantics of the third sector and the organisations and interactions that comprise it interconnects social relations which are typical of the different modes of coordination or different subsystems, allowing for mutual observation.
Ferreira, Sílvia (2009), “A invenção estratégica do terceiro sector como estrutura de observação mútua: uma abordagem histórico-conceptual [The strategic invention of the third sector as a structure for mutual observation]”, Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais, 83, 169-192 .