Essay On Civil Society And Parliamentary Democracy

Essay On Civil Society And Parliamentary Democracy-40
The second half of the article focuses on India, attempting to show, through one particular case study, the prospects and problems for democracy.

The second half of the article focuses on India, attempting to show, through one particular case study, the prospects and problems for democracy.The term ‘civil society’ has been defined in several ways : the most common understanding is of civil society as an intermediate sphere between indiv-idual/family and state, though the exact ingredients of this sphere vary (see Kumar 1993 ; Calhoun 1993 ; Chandoke 1995).Examples here are the Baathist state in Iraq, Nasser’s Egypt and Nehru’s India.

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Groups like the Taliban, which are clearly patriarchal and regressive in their ideology, also have the support of young people for whom the Taliban represents an avenue for social mobility as against the tribal elders (Abou Zahab 2010).

The same kind of unemployed youth may join the progressive ‘Naxalites’ (Maoist guerillas) or the dangerous Hindu right wing organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, depending on whose area of influence they find themselves in.

The Pakistan People’s Party, for instance, came to power on a pro-democracy platform, and has to continuously struggle to establish civilian rule against the military and intelligence services, even though it is in power.

In Thailand, the red shirts were supporters of the deposed President Thaksin Sinawatra, who represented one faction of the state against the other (Abisit Vejjajeeva, who came to power through a coup).

The level of freedoms that define democracy – for instance, the separation of powers, freedom of press, the nature of fundamental rights – also vary widely within the continent.

Many of the states have been victims of colonial rule, though how this has impacted their polity and civil society varies widely.The role of civil society as promoter of democratic change ‘from below’ is not always as evident as some would argue.The legacy of anti-colonial struggles has meant that many states have been a progressive modernising force, compared to conservative populations.Among those who question the applicability of civil society outside Europe, Partha Chatterjee (2004, 2008), makes the distinction between a rule bound civil society consisting of citizens, who are mostly middle class and culturally equipped to use the law and claim their rights, and a ‘political society’ consisting of governed populations, who have to use politics rather than law to negotiate claims to subsistence, which are given to them as ‘concessions’ rather than rights.However, this formulation has been widely criticised (see among others in the same issue of Economic and Political Weekly, Baviskar and Sundar 2008).As I show in this article, the institutions that make up civil society are equally found in Asia – what differs from country to country is the manner in which they interact with each other and with the state.Is it possible to clearly demarcate civil society from the state ?Take, for example, the demand for reservations or quotas in government jobs in India by various castes and tribes, or the Bhumiputra category generated by the Malaysian state (see Nesiah 1997).Many of the practices we think of today as customary, and which would therefore belong to the civil society side of the divide between state and society, such as customary law in India or adat in Indonesia, were framed by colonial policies of indirect rule (see Sundar, 2009 ; Peluso and Vandergeest 2001).For Hegel, for instance, the bureaucracy and corporations were part of civil society as against the ethical state.A political economy approach locates civil society in the sphere of property and thereby class, as against the claimed universalism of citizenship in the political sphere (Marx 1977).

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