Civil society - Part 8

posted by julia on 2007/01/07 19:26

[ Civil society ]

Pondering over the self-representation of civil society in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina (a topic I will elaborate on next week in Vienna at the Emergenzen-conference), I came across an interesting comment on the webpage of the Guardian: "The myth of civil society":
By encouraging the expansion of civil society, especially in countries with authoritarian or dictatorial governments, the story goes, spaces will be created for a wider, more ample democratic debate. This will lead to greater pluralism and make rulers more accountable, transparent and less liable to corruption.

This model is a transplant of an idealised version of western society, which, it is true, is characterised by an impressive range of voluntary bodies and associations. (...) Civil society can be both earnest and frivolous, absorbing the energies of the most high-minded as of the obsessive and the self-seeking.

The global elevation of civil society is, however, not quite as disinterested as it may appear. It is axiomatic, since the death of socialism, that governments must everywhere retreat, not only from economic activity, but equally, from the provision of basic services, including, education, health, welfare and the nutritional status of the people. Liberalisation, privatisation and global policies of "small government" (except in the areas of defence and law and order) have led to a withdrawal by governments from areas of concern, which, until recently, had been seen as their primary functions.

His until now quite interesting argumentation gets quite ideological: civil society is one of the allies of capitalism and shares all the "evils" of the capitalist system.

"Civil society" is a rescue mission for the narrowing parameters of a democracy that has ceased to challenge capitalism; and it assumes the role formerly borne by the transformative destiny of a disgraced socialism. (...)

No wonder civil society is now an essential part of developmentalism: it sets up a strident competitive clamour between groups of the privileged. This creates an agreeable impression of diversity and democratic pluralism; but is designed to ensure that nothing challenges the destructive system of which civil society is both ornament and agent of control.

Nevertheless, the questions the articles raises, are worth being though about... and I hope we will have some interesting discussion in Vienna on the "global evelation of civil society" and civil society being part of a "developmentalist" approach in regions such as the Balkans...



This weblog is a forum for discussion on the political and social processes linked to EU integration in the Western Balkans. We would also like to use this space to create a virtual network of researchers on this topic. You are most welcome to contribute to this weblog with comments, postings, links, or photos. Please use the "add comment" function at the end of each posting!
All photos by the Photo Arts Collective of Kosovo. First photo by Burim Myftiu (Swimming olympiade in Klina). Second photo by Mimoza. Third photo by Dashmir Izairi.
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