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Article

Interest Organizations and European Union Politics  

Justin Greenwood

Interest representation plays a systemic role in European Union (EU) policymaking and integration, recognized as such in the Treaty on European Union. Interest organizations supply technical and political information to the EU institutions, and EU institutions use interest organizations as agents of political communication. Interest organizations act as a proxy for an otherwise largely absent civil society, with a teeming population of groups advocating for every imaginable cause. Where groups are absent, so EU institutions have stimulated their formation. The result is a pluralist system of checks and balances, although the literature includes findings of “islands” resembling corporatist practice. EU institutions have designed a range of procedures in support of “an open and structured dialogue between the Commission and special interest groups,” now largely packaged as a “Better Regulation” program. Measures include funding for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), consultation procedures accompanied by impact assessments, a Transparency Register to provide lobbying transparency, and measures for access to documents that enable civil society organizations to keep EU institutions accountable. A multilevel governance system further strengthens pluralist design, making it impossible for any one type of interest to routinely capture the diversity of EU decision-making. A key controversy in the literature is how to assess influence and whether lobbying success varies across interest group type. EU public policymaking is regulatory, making for competitive interest group politics, often between different branches of business whose interests are affected differently by regulatory proposals. There are striking findings from the literature, including that NGOs are more successful than business organizations in getting what they want from EU public policymaking, particularly where issues reach the status of high salience where they attract the attention of the European Parliament. A key innovation of the Lisbon Treaty involves a European Citizens’ Initiative, which takes dialogue between civil society and EU institutions outside the ecosystem inhabited by civil society organizations and EU institutions known as the “Brussels bubble” and into the member states.

Article

Women’s Political Movements and Civil Society in Africa  

Aili Mari Tripp

The roots of contemporary women’s mobilization in Africa were in nationalist movements and in the early single-party era, when women’s mobilization was often closely aligned with and controlled by the ruling party and state. This changed in the multiparty era after the 1990s and how new forms of mobilization came to be characterized by their autonomy from political parties and the state. This autonomy allowed for new issues to be taken up as well new forms of mobilization ranging from grass-roots activism to nationwide campaigns, broad coalitions and cyber activism. In the early 21st century, the demands range from opposition to all forms of violence against women, to financing of businesses, the right to abortion, the adoption of gender quotas in government and the legislature, and many other concerns. After the mid-2000s, restrictions on freedom of association and speech began to impinge once again on civil society in many countries, sometimes constraining women’s activism.

Article

Social Capital and Democracy in Africa  

Richard Asante

Social capital is a slippery concept that signifies different things for different authors, and its uses are not always consistent. Despite this lack of consensus, most scholars agree on its basic idea: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Participation or membership in social networks and voluntary organizations creates norms and values such as trust, cooperation, and reciprocity that lead to productive state, institutional performance, and democratic communities. Social interactions and connections expand access to information and political ideas, nurture active citizens, stimulate individual participation in politics, collective decision-making, and policy formulation, which increase governmental accountability. In recent years, civil society actors in Africa have been emboldened to build social capital in response to restrictions and attacks on civil and political liberties, creeping authoritarianism, constitutional manipulations, and lack of governmental accountability. However, there are formidable challenges to generating social capital due to the character of civil society, its structural weaknesses and internal contradictions, socio-cultural factors, and limitations from the state.

Article

Democracy and the Question of Its Feasibility in Africa  

Mamoudou Gazibo

Until the end of the 1980s, most observers believed that democratic prospects in Africa were limited, given the low level of economic development, the absence of strong nation-states, and the inexistence of a long history of social and political pluralism. However, beginning in 1989, a wave of popular protests demanding democratic reforms swept the continent. Within a couple of years, virtually all the countries liberalized their political systems. Since then, Africans have shown consistently that they strongly prefer and support democratic rule. At the same time, democratic institutions such as electoral commissions and constitutional courts have taken root on the continent. These developments suggest that the question of the feasibility of democracy in Africa is no longer relevant. Nonetheless, the existence of democratic demands, support, and institutions does not mean that democracy is easy to establish and consolidate. In many African countries, democratic gains are reversible and face several hindering factors, including state weakness, autocratic mindset, unstable and divided civic and political organizations, and widespread identity politics. This is why the level and quality of democracy on the African continent vary dramatically from country to country and from one region to another.

Article

Nigeria: Regional Politics and Dynamics  

Oliver Owen

The politics of Nigeria have often been considered a matter of managing social diversity in a political economy whose extremes have been exaggerated by oil money. But this story is incomplete without thinking instead more deeply about inequality, about political party origins and ideologies as well as identities, and about politics beyond parties and elections. Bureaucracy, mass mobilization, and everyday practice are equally important issues in Nigerian politics as the country moves through another economic transformation. Nigeria’s political structures have been built around questions of managing diversity and allocating resources, and the country’s federal system embeds a tension between how much power is managed from the center and how much is devolved to the constituent states and local governments. As well as parties, legislatures, and executives, security institutions have been prominent in the country’s political formation, and public institutions are both formed around, and are vectors of forming, elite social networks. Partly due to long-standing models of social legitimacy and partly as a result of the kind of identity politics Nigeria has chosen to manage diversity, models of citizenship based on localized belonging are pervasive drivers of political patterning. Political factions and parties, often characterized as election-winning aggregations of patron-client networks, also however embed distinct historical ideological traditions, which chart Nigeria’s movements between liberal capitalism and state-directed development and which have driven both domestic debates and a continental and regional leadership role. Tensions around inequalities and the realm of the political more generally cannot be understood as a matter of governmental institutions alone but bring in religion, gender construction, labor movements, the media, civil society, and new social movements, as well as the “ineffable politics” of tactic, techniques, norms, and practices that fix the realm of the political as a key part of everyday social and economic life.

Article

Democratic Rollback in Africa  

Lise Rakner

There is a global trend of democratic retrenchment across the world, in both new and more established democracies. The African continent is part of the trend, although there are distinct regional variances on the continent. Yet, despite democratic gains in some states and along some dimensions of democratic rights, the overall trend is that the democratic gains won in the period after 1990 are now eroding. Democracy is challenged in ways that pose threats to freedom of speech, association, and information, the ability to choose political leaders, protection of personal integrity and private life, and the rule of law with recourse to independent courts. As part of a global trend of democratic backsliding, African states have adopted legal restrictions on key civil and political rights that form the basis of democratic rule in a range of countries, from dominant party regimes such as Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Tanzania to competitive electoral democracies like Zambia, Senegal, and Malawi. In South Africa, where democracy and rule of law appear deeply institutionalized, the succession battles and exposed levels of corruption under President Zuma, now removed from the leadership of the ANC party, suggest a weakening of the institutions intended to check executive powers. The September 2017 court annulment of the Kenyan elections suggests that the courts were able to perform an important accountability function and safeguard free and fair elections. Yet, the aftermath of the 2017 Kenyan elections culminated in early 2018 with President Uhuru Kenyatta closing down television and radio stations. Civil society actors, policy makers, and scholars warn against the democratic backlash and its negative implications for domestic and international politics. Internationally, the African democratic backlash challenges global actors who have long pressured developing countries to politically liberalize. Yet, following what appears to be a global trend of democratic backsliding, space for international influence and the spread of liberal norms is closing rapidly. Domestically, the observed backlash against democracy may pose further social and political threats with wide-reaching implications for development. This may, in turn, challenge the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Whereas closing space for civil society impacts first and foremost on voice and participation, restrictions on civil society ultimately may curb even the most seemingly apolitical activities such as humanitarian relief. At present, there is limited understanding of possible response mechanisms to the conscious attempts at democratic rollback from political elites. How do activists come together to advocate for particular rights? When are activists more effective in generating mass citizen support for their campaigns? How can researchers, international actors, and domestic civil society organizations work together to disseminate and use knowledge about organizational resilience in these circumstances? These will be pressing questions for scholars and activists going forward.

Article

State-Owned Enterprises: Structures, Functions, and Legitimacy  

Ian Thynne

State-owned enterprises are significant features of, and contributors to, the development and management of economies and communities around the globe. Their structures, the functions allocated to them, and the legitimacy of their activities, along with their privatization by divestment, are fundamental to the efficacy of government and governance. Critical issues in their existence and work include the design and choice of structures, the dispersal and performance of functions, and the securing and maintenance of legitimacy. How they fare, and how they are assessed and judged, are of immediate relevance to their continued use, change, and reform. Accordingly, they must be, and remain, important focuses of research, analysis and action.

Article

Governance Through Civil Society  

Jacob Torfing

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the role of civil society in public governance, defined as the process of steering society and the economy through collective action and in accordance with some common objectives. Civil society holds valuable experiences, resources and ideas that may be mobilized in support of public governance processes. The heightened interest in civil society has stimulated scholarly debates about the conceptualization of civil society that tends to be defined as an institutional realm of private associations, voluntarism, and active citizens. The theoretical perception on the role of civil society vis-à-vis public governance seems to have moved from mainly considering the governance of civil society and governance in civil society to focusing on governance with civil society through various forms of collaborative network governance and co‑creation processes. In other words, civil society is no longer perceived merely as a target for public governance initiatives promoted by state agencies, nor is it solely praised for its capacity for self-governance. Civil society has been re-casted as a competent and resourceful partner in processes of co-governance in which public and private actors create a common ground for joint problemsolving. The new research on co-governance prompts analysis of the conditions for engaging civil society actors in public governance, the potential benefits and problems of governance based on interaction with civil society, and the need for meta-governance of cross-boundary collaboration. Civil society is often associated with local, place-bound groups and associations, but it is equally important to consider the prospects for global governance to involve the emerging global civil society. The interest in how civil society can play a role in and contribute to public governance has come to stay and prompts us to reflect on future research avenues, including the key question of how we can create platforms for cross-boundary collaboration between public and private for-profit and non-profit actors. As such, the re-casting of civil society as a partner in the co-governance of society also seems to transform the state from an authority standing above society to an opportunity structure that promotes cross-boundary collaboration and co-creation of public value outcomes.

Article

Parties and Non-State Actors in Latin America  

Santiago Anria and Christopher Chambers-Ju

Since the dual transition to democracy and the market in Latin America, associational linkages or the exchanges between parties and interest associations representing different groups in society gained prominence for their crucial role in structuring political representation and framing policy processes. In the early 21st century, how do the relationships between political parties and interest associations vary across and within countries? The literature on party–voter linkages has begun to examine the distinct relations that emerge when political parties interact with interest associations that represent societal groups in order to incorporate those groups into party organizations or coalitions. Although associational linkages can be constructed when party leaders reach out to interest associations, they can also be constructed when interest associations negotiate the terms of their political support. One approach to analyzing associational linkages involves focusing on the diverse relationships that emerging societal actors established with political parties. Social movements have constructed movement-based parties. These parties are a particularly puzzling phenomenon because they incorporate social movements into their organizations without necessarily demobilizing them. Emerging sectors of organized labor have also established an array of relationships to parties, with unions engaging in contentious or electoral mobilization, with different degrees of support for political parties. There are major opportunities to advance a broad agenda for research on associational linkages that highlights cross-regional contrasts and changes in the political economy.

Article

Ukraine: Democratizing Civil–Military Relations in the Midst of Conflict  

Marybeth P. Ulrich

Ukraine’s civil–military relations continue to democratize in the midst of its ongoing conflict with Russia. Ukraine’s progress in its political, economic, and military reforms is linked to the development of its civil–military relations, which, in turn, can be a catalyst for further advances in democratization and the application of the national power so essential to it prevailing in its existential struggle to preserve its national independence and fledgling democracy. However, Ukraine’s challenging geopolitical hand has limited its democratic and economic development postindependence. Prior to the war with Russia, due to the Ukraine swaying between the liberal democracies of Europe and the lure of authoritarian Russia, the conflicting interests of stakeholders from the disparate camps limited Ukraine’s ability to break decisively toward either one. The Euromaidan protests, followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursion into the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine propelled Ukraine onto a pro-Europe path. However, the legacy of Soviet-era bureaucracy, weak political culture, and scarce resources have limited the country’s progress. Key elements of democratic civil–military relations, such as meaningful civilian oversight within the relevant ministries and parliamentary defense committees, are still insufficiently present. So far, the combined impact of limited progress in the development of democratic institutions, poor economic performance, insufficiently mitigated corruption, and war in eastern Ukraine has held the country as a whole back from achieving the results of the higher-performing postcommunist states in the region. However, the Zelensky administration has a clear mandate and the parliamentary majority to implement its vision for Ukraine. Ukraine’s civil–military relations are an important aspect of its strategic success. Political–military and societal–military cooperation and coordination can serve as the catalysts needed to bridge crucial divides and reinforce the parallel reforming tracks of democratic, economic, military, and cultural development and institution-building.

Article

Religious Frames: The Gülen Movement  

Etga Ugur

The Gülen movement is a transnational social movement with presence in more than 120 countries. The movement emerged out of Turkey’s informal Islamic sector in the 1960s and combined elements of Turkish patriotism, Islamic revivalism, Sufi mysticism, interfaith outreach, activist pietism, and conservative modernism. The initial focus on faith-based community-building gave way to a broader “presence movement” in the public sphere. The movement is organized around clusters of non-governmental institutions, including schools, tutoring centers, universities, business associations, community organizations, humanitarian aid, healthcare, and media outlets. Its organizational structure resembles concentric circles of volunteerism with varying degrees of commitment and contribution, with a core of dedicated full-time “elders” (abi/abla) and more specialized contributions in the periphery. Despite its transnational presence and growth, the structure of the movement retained its reliance on the charismatic authority of the movement’s founder, Fethullah Gülen, and a core group of the elders. The participants call the movement simply the hizmet (service), emphasizing its functions as opposed to its identity or leadership. As the community evolved from its early Muslim restorationist identity in the Turkish periphery, it has gradually widened its appeal, incorporated an increasingly universal-humanist language, and achieved a considerable global reach since the 1990s. The movement found a niche in interfaith/intercultural dialogue activism in the public sphere and allied itself with other civil society actors in various countries. The movement schools and services assumed bridge-building roles across ethnic and religious lines in divided and conflict-prone developing countries. These peace-building and civil society–organizing roles in turn helped the movement mobilize its members and promote its legitimacy in the public sphere, and offered layers of protection against its opponents. In Turkey, however, the movement became much more entangled in the state bureaucracy and politics, turning its civil society–based service profile into a controversial organization. Despite achieving a high-profile public presence, the movement’s politics remained informal, its positions on social and political issues vague, and its structure amorphous for much of its existence until the mid-2000s. The changing balance of power between Turkey’s Kemalist state establishment and the Islamists under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) offered a major opportunity for the Gülen movement to increase its access to power between 2007 and 2013. Many affiliates of the movement assumed key positions in the Turkish bureaucracy and the business world. During this period, the AKP gradually dismantled the Kemalist establishment. However, instead of a liberal democratic order, the “new” post-Kemalist Turkey witnessed a power struggle between the former allies. The mistrust between the Gülen movement and the AKP ultimately led to an all-out war, with battles around high-stakes corruption and graft investigations against the AKP government, followed by mass purges of Gülenists from the bureaucracy and crackdown on its economic and human resources, and finalized by criminalization of all movement activities after a coup attempt that implicated Gülenists in the military. The Turkish government extended its crackdown abroad and pressured other countries to declare the movement as a terrorist organization, shut down or transfer its schools, and extradite its leadership to Turkey, with mixed success. The movement is challenged by the conflicting imperatives of self-preservation under existential threats and the need for critical reflection on its relationship with power. It is likely to experience a period of soul searching while its center of gravity shifts away from Turkey. An integrated approach from social movement theory sheds light on how motives, means, and opportunities account for the rise and decline of the Gülen movement, with implications for Islam and modernity, religion and democratization, and state-society relations.

Article

Interest Groups, the Bureaucracy, and Issue Prioritization  

Bert Fraussen and Darren Halpin

Interest groups—collective voluntary organizations for which political advocacy is a primary task such as business associations and citizen groups—are key agents engaging with the bureaucracy. While understudied, research on the relations between interest groups and civil servants highlights the importance of the bureaucratic arena. Recent studies present different perspectives on the interactions between these two actors and also highlight the process of issue prioritization, an important aspect of (internal) agenda setting within groups. This is a key process to study as it provides insight into why groups allocate their attention and resources to a specific set of policy issues, and in this way it clarifies how interest groups put representation into practice. Issue prioritization within groups can be conceptualized as being guided by five drivers: internal responsiveness, policy capacities, niche seeking, political opportunity structure, and issue salience. Recent scholarship has highlighted how rather than privileging one driver over another, this process is first and foremost a balancing exercise in which groups take on board various internal and external considerations. Similar processes are at work within bureaucracies. The intersection of prioritization processes of civil servants and interest groups is an important area for future research.

Article

Institutionalizing Public Action: Multiple Alignments of Goods, Services, Roles, and Tasks  

Ian Thynne

Public action through the organizational use of power and rules in government and governance is multidimensional in form, scope, and reach. Approaches to action, embodying differing interactions of the state, market, and civil society, include statism, state–market dualism, state–civil society dualism, and state–market–civil society synergism. The approaches are distinctive while interrelated. They concern goods and services as focuses of action involving availability, accessibility, consumption, and use. This requires the performance of roles and tasks as modes of action. The roles are owner, producer, provider, regulator, facilitator, buyer, seller, consumer, and user, with each entailing tasks of making, implementing, and reviewing decisions. The result is a complex institutionalization of action, with multiple alignments of goods, services, roles, and tasks in the public interest.

Article

Controlling Bureaucratic Corruption  

Ting Gong and Sunny L. Yang

Corruption is a complex social phenomenon. It refers to the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, but it may still mean different things to different people. The definition of corruption applicable in one place may not be suitable in another setting, and the conception of corruption is highly contextualized. Adding to the difficulty of defining corruption is the lack of accurate measurements for the degree of corruption. Objective and subjective measures have been developed by scholars and practitioners, but their reliability and validity have often been challenged. The measurements developed so far are proxies for the level of corruption rather than accurate diagnostic tools. Despite the difficulties of conceptualizing and measuring corruption, its effects on public administration and social development are clearly evident. Corruption causes losses to state coffers, undermines the rule of law and regulatory regimes, distorts the provision of public services, ruins public trust in government, and weakens the overall quality of governance. Corruption may sometimes grease administrative wheels, but it usually benefits only a few individuals or groups and in the long run is detrimental to the society as a whole. When unchecked or under-checked, corruption destabilizes the economy, destroys political legitimacy, and triggers social unrest. This explains why controlling corruption has been a high priority on the government’s agenda in most countries and has been the focus of the activities of many civil society organizations. Various anti-corruption strategies are adopted; there are, for example, compliance-based, value-based, top-down, bottom-up, economic, institutional, and cultural approaches to controlling corruption. The configuration of anti-corruption agencies may also differ from country to country, displaying distinctive features. Evidently, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to corruption control and prevention. What works or not depends on a country’s specific circumstances. However, the experiences of Hong Kong and Singapore in fighting corruption and building clean societies reveal a few important success factors.

Article

Domestic and International Constituencies in Military Coups  

Ömer Aslan

Available scholarship on civil–military relations literature treats the occurrence of military coups d’état either as a purely domestic affair or a simple outcome of international dynamics. That is, a large body of literature assumes that a military coup d’état takes place on either a domestic or international level. When taken as an exclusively domestic affair, reasons for military coups d’état run the gamut from domestic instability and political corruption, state weakness, economic collapse, and the institutional culture of a military and its desire to protect its corporate interests, to political culture and popular support. Yet, a parallel body of work either reduces coup plotters to the status of proxies of powerful global state actors or assumes that wars, crises, external threats, foreign military training, or peacekeeping missions shape the military decision to seize power. Both perspectives deservedly take the military as the focal point of coups, yet presume either that that military is easily able to dictate a particular course of action to all the remaining domestic actors or is unidirectionally influenced by international actors. A coup d’état, however, must take into account different constituencies within and outside the military for it to take place. At the domestic level various actors, from opposition politicians, media corporations, and labor unions to business associations and “military opinion” itself, need to be taken into account. At the international level, coup plotters may either directly engage in negotiations, bargaining, and dialogue with or try to interpret signals delivered by external state actors. Coup plotters may use military-to-military relations developed by military officer exchanges and joint work in common security and defense organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Given that they are rational actors, coup-makers know well enough to look for ‘propitious circumstances’ at home and abroad (regional and international) as well as predict resonance between the domestic and international environment. Although military elites are better positioned to use their international network to engage in dialogue and bargaining at the international level, mid-ranking officers also take into consideration the outside dimension. When several domestic pressure groups such as business organizations or ordinary people deem a coup not in their interest or not to be a preferred action at a particular point in time, and show their displeasure by sustained street action, a permissive international environment may not suffice to produce a coup. It is in the context of this brittle coup coalition and in this intimate and fragile appeal to domestic and international audiences that a coup attempt takes place.

Article

Afro-Latin Social Movements in Latin America and the Caribbean  

Kwame Dixon

This article examines the rise of Afro-Latin social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. It seeks to understand what factors explain the rise of black consciousness and black social movements. Theoretically, it explores the multidimensional nature and meaning of blackness as a social constructions and how such constructions may contribute to or limit Afro-based social movements. Contrary to popular perception, Afro-Latin social movements are not new, but form part of the long history of black resistance in the Americas. Although Black social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean are not new and have long histories like those of Maroon, Quilombo, Cimarròn, and Palenque societies, it is argued that the1970s witnessed an uptick in Afro-referenced social movements across the region. These movements, although in no way monolithic, represented a repertoire of various identities, ideas, and philosophies. Their agendas were framed in the context of racial and social justice demanding social, economic, and cultural rights long denied to them. Theoretically, Afro civil society as a specific Black space and cultural site, is theorized to show how many of these movements emerged. Afro civil society therefore is used to place these movements within a theoretical and historical timeframe.