Monday, June 17, 2013

Civil Society and Democracy

In the last couple of decades the mobilization of by civil societies on issues of global governance has increased greatly. This has caused civil societies to shift to the nucleus of discussions on globalization and democracy which are being held in the 21st century. The general public has reacted different to the increased participation of civil societies in issues of governance. While some observers perceive the increased participation by civil movements as an indicator of increased democracy, others are convinced that the increased participation of the civil society is a bane. According to Castells (2008, p. 78) the associations that exist between the citizen and politics can best be described as the “public sphere” or “Network for communicating information and points of view”. Chambers and Kopstein (2006, p. 363) define the civil society as “uncoerced associational life distinct from the family and institutions of the state”. Walzer (1995, p. 153) states that civil societies refer to “the space of uncoerced human association and also the set of relational networks formed for the sake of the family, faith interest and ideology” (Walzer, 1995, p. 153). There are six main ways in which civil societies mat relate with the state in the discussion about civil society and democracy. These include (1) Civil society being opposed to the state, (2) Civil society being for the state, (3) Civil society being in an alliance with the state, (4) Civil society being apart from the state, (5) Civil society being in dialogue with the state and finally (6) civil society being beyond the state (Chambers and Kopstein, p. 363). Castell (2008, p. 78-82) there are four different categories of civil societies. The first category is comprised of local civil society actors that may be either religious agencies or local work associations. The second civil society category is the nongovernmental organizations whose functions are performed in both the national and global arenas, for instance Amnesty International. The third category of civil societies is that which encompasses social movements; these refer to small groups that oppose the interests, principles or values that are currently in operation in the state. Castell (2008, p. 82 claims that the last category of civil societies is the trends in public opinions which are demonstrated as a consequence of citizens’ own volitions on forums such as the internet. The modern day interest regarding the civil associations is more focused on associational life as opposed to the market or economic systems (Chambers and Kopstein, 2006, p. 363). Although more often than not civil societies are perceived as being separate from a nations economic system and it is not easy to determine the division between the two. According to Chambers and Kopstein (2006, p. 363) states that while some philosophers include the economy in the description of civil societies others have a tendency to leave it out. A third group of philosophers tend to associate the civil society and a nation’s financial society only if such fiscal associations are integrated into the associational life of the people. The modern day civil societies are less interested on the financial relations in society. Walzer (1995, p. 156) argues that citizens in any state have a tendency to engage more in the financial systems that affect them rather than the political systems. On the contrary, there are more concerned with the phenomena of power and influence as well as the function that is fulfilled by the state vis-à-vis the freedom of association (Chambers and Kopstein, 2006, p. 363). When the civil society acts in collaboration with the state, the anatomy or sovereignty of the state is always being questioned since its legitimacy is founded upon dialogue with its citizenry and other pertinent non-state actors. In such cases it is very difficult to determine who is actually in charge of the state. Nevertheless, Walzer (1995, p. 156) argues that the growth in the power of a democratic regime as it endeavors to effectively redress the demands of its citizenry is not an indicator of the state being “fully in the hands of its citizens” (Walzer, 1995, p. 156). More over, a great majority of citizens in any state are too engaged in their own personal endeavors, such as earning a living, to act as protagonists of the state. As indicated by Applbaum (2010, p. 215) one form of political legitimacy is the power-liability account. According to this perspective, political legitimacy is perceived as “a form of normative power that entails moral liability but not necessarily a moral claim-right that entails moral duty”. This model of political legitimacy by the state purports that there are diverse explanations of validated civil insubordination that is experienced in reaction to laws which in spite of being legitimate, tend to be unjust (Applbaum, 2010). The concept of the civil state being beyond the state comes about when civil societies become globalized (Chambers and Kopstein, 2006, p. 376). Thinkers in the realms of global civil societies tend to be opposed to “Methodological nationalism” which is perceived as the habit of overemphasizing national domains rather than the transnational. In the event that civil societies are perceived as being apart from the state they tend to be typified by voluntary involvement, a plurality of activities and unfavorable limits (Chambers and Kopstein, 2006, p. 364). Civil societies are opposed to the state have a tendency to politicize all issues. In extreme or dictatorial regimes civil societies are banned as they are perceived as triggering revolutions (Chambers and Kopstein, 2006, p. 368). When civil societies are in dialogue with the state they tend to be very active in the public domains as they engage the state in innovative and critical dialogues for the benefit of the general public. According to Almond and Verba (1989) there are a number of characteristics that define a “democrat”. The most common include their ability to possess a warm and inclusive mindset towards other people in the society as well as their tendency of sharing values with other citizens, Rather than incline towards single values democrats have a propensity to incline towards multi-valued orientations. In addition to this, democrats tend to be free of anxiety and they have confidence in the circumstances that human finds themselves in. Almond and Verba (1989) reveal that the first phenomenal project regarding civil societies and their role was the “Civic culture” that was carried out in the year 1963. This project was interested in the methodological collection and codification of variables assessing the extent of citizen involvement in matters of governance in five nations: Great Britain, the United States of America, Germany, Mexico and Italy. These variables were founded upon surveys that were cross-sectional in nature. In this project Almond and Verba (1989) aimed at formulating a civic culture model that would elucidate on the involvement of citizens in political issues affecting them. In carrying out their activities these two authors deliberated upon the origins of civil culture as well as the functions of civic culture in the sets of procedures that characterize social transformation. On e of the most important aspects of this investigative research was to define and explain the differences that exist in the real conduct of the participants of the study as opposed to the participant’s mindsets and perceptions of political responsibilities. Political culture is described as the “Attitudes towards the political system and its various parts, and attitudes towards the self in the system” (Almond and Verba, 1989). A nation’s political culture is perceived as the manner in which orientation regarding the political domain and phenomenal by its citizenry is fashioned. In their investigative studies Almond and Verba (1989) revealed that there are three main ways in which citizens can be oriented to the politics of the day. The first orientation is parochial which describes a political sleepwalker; a political sleepwalker refers to the citizen that does not participate and has no interest or knowledge on the political structure of the day. The second political orientation is subject; this refers to the citizen possessing some limited knowledge of the political agencies and regulations that affect them. Almond and Verba (1989) describe the last form of political orientation as participant; this is denotative of the citizen that possesses a strong sense of authority, aptitude and comprehension regarding their domestic political structures. According to Walzer (1995, p. 162) the real arena on which the different perspectives of “a good life” can be tested and tried out is the associational life that characterizes civil societies. Chambers and Kopstein (2006, p. 370) claim that when a civil society supports the state it leads to the creation of “schools of Citizenship”. Such an association, however, is often characterized by hostilities by either party towards the other. Walzer (1995, p. 155) argues that one of the leftist ideologies is inclined towards the view that one of the best setting for a “good life: is a democratic state and political domain in which citizens can freely associate and are involved satisfactorily in important decision making processes. Walzer (1995, p. 155) claims that in such a scenario the citizen is tasked with the responsibility of being actively involved in the politics of the day as they work with other citizens for common good. Citizenship is thus perceived as one of the most fundamental principles for democratic idealism. Walzer (1995, p. 161) further argues that in the modern day many states are attracted towards the phenomenon of statehood due to the fact that the pursuit of such ensures that they have sovereign power. It is important to note that civil societies are not always constructive entities. According to Arneil (2006) civil society does not bring about societal or state cohesion and harmony; on the contrary, civil societies are perceived as an arena for hostilities and contestation brought about by the phenomena of inclusion and exclusion (Arneil, 2006). Chambers and Kopstein (2006, p. 373) claim that before the events of the Rwanda genocide took place in Rwanda in 1994, a commentator in Rwanda had revealed that Rwanda had “the highest associational life in sub-Saharan Africa”. More over when new democracies first emerged in the late 1980s, civil societies were accused of propagating hate and discord in society as well as bringing about bad social capital. There are debates even in the most stable democracies on whether or not civil society groups should exist as “unmitigated good” (Chambers and Kopstein, 2006, p. 373). Arneil (2006) deliberates upon the dilemma of social capital that typifies diverse communities. In a great number of scholarly and policy forum, social capital is often time appreciated for the role it plays in the improvement of educational, societal and political agencies and consequently the happiness that these enhancements in brings to the people. In spite of this, Arneil (2006) argues that social capital is not always so great. In fact, Arneil (2006) claims that the overemphasis and increased focus that is directed towards social capital is not only misguided but also very dangerous for the marginalized groups in society such as ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities and homosexuals. Conclusively, this paper has been able to describe in detail the relationship between civil societies and democracy in states, particularly in the modern day. Despite the fact that the freedoms of association and expression are very fundamental for any strong public domain, they are rarely sufficient in ensuring democracy in any state. The guarantees of the fundamental constitution in any state need to be supplemented by a robust civil society that is successful in ensuring that the public domain is kept undamaged. References Almond, G. A. and Verba, S., (1989), The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, London: Sage Applbaum, A., (2010), Legitimacy without the Duty to Obey, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 215-239 Arneil, B., (2006), Diverse Communities: The Problem with Social Capital, Cambridge: Cambridge University Castells, M., (2008), The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks and Global Governance, The Annals of the American Society of Political and Social Science, Vol. 616, No. 1, pp. 78-93 Chambers, S. and Kopstein, J., (2006), Civil Society and the State in The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory by Dryzek, J., Honig, B. and Phillips, A., Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 363- 382 Walzer, M., (1995), The Civil Society Argument in Theorizing Citizenship, Beiner, R., Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 153-174