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BAD CIVIL SOCIETY
Are civil society organizations always good?
As Norton (1995) states, “societies do not take two
tablets of civil society at bedtime and wake up the
morning undergoing democratization” (p.6).
BAD CIVIL SOCIETY


Empirical research on civil society should study
the nature of the relationship between civil
society organizations and
democracy/democratization, rather than assume
it.
Civil society, like other realms, is an arena of
power, inequality, struggle, conflict, and
cooperation among competing identities and
interests.
BAD CIVIL SOCIETY

Simone Chambers (2002): “Civil society can be a
place where particularism and difference define
participation and where the self-organization of
citizens contributes to a general atmosphere of
distrust and misunderstanding. It is not the
case…that active associational life is good in and
of itself. Associations, clubs, churches, and of
course, families can and do promote
antidemocratic illiberal ideals and when they do,
bad civil society emerges” (p.101).
BAD CIVIL SOCIETY

CS organizations promote democracy but
sometime promote division and intolerance!
BAD CIVIL SOCIETY

When does bad civil society emerge?
1. In the absence of a strong and responsive
political institutions!
Sheri Berman: German case
The dense networks of civic engagement provided the
Nazis with cadres of activists who had the skills
necessary to spread the party’s message and increase
recruitment. Those networks also served as a fifth
column, allowing the NSDAP to infiltrate and master a
significant sector of bourgeoisie society before emerging
to seize control of Germany’s national political
structure… (p.409).
GERMAN CASE

The party also skillfully exploited their
organizational contacts and social expertise to
gain insight into the fears and needs of particular
groups and to tailor new appeals to them—using
them, in other words, as “focus groups.” The
activists, finally, provided the movement with
unparalleled local organizations. In contrast to
the other bourgeois parties, Nazis were able to
develop flexible and committed local party
chapters that enabled full and accurate two-way
communication between the national party and
its frontline troops (p.409).
BAD CIVIL SOCIETY
2. When civil society organizations emerge as
defenders of state power!
In weak democracies, loaded with an anti-democratic
past, they are often creatures of governments, parties or
individuals who employ them to enhance their power,
prestige or material interests.
In that case, dominant groups in civil society, far from
constituting a sphere that is oppositional to the state,
might actually defend and extend state power in the
domain of civil society.
Indian Case
BAD CIVIL SOCIETY
3. When they become nationalists!
Indian Case
4. When they are polarized
Turkey during the 1970s
Civil society became a mechanism, not for generating
civility and ‘social capital,’ but rather for magnifying
sociopolitical conflict and transmitting it to the very
bases of society
BAD CIVIL SOCIETY

What about social capital?
Social networks might also cut members’
connections with the wider world, be
exclusive for some, or serve selfish and/or
antisocial as well as “civic” goals
Social capital is context dependent!
WHAT KIND OF PARTICIPATION IS GOOD
FOR DEMOCRACY?

Bonding social capital vs. Bridging social capital

Particularistic civility vs. Democratic Civility
WHAT KIND OF PARTICIPATION IS GOOD
FOR DEMOCRACY?


“Among its members, the Ku Klux Klan may
cultivate solidarity and trust, reduce the
incentives for opportunism, and develop some I’s
into we but the associational premises of these
solidaristic ties are hatred, degradation, and
denigration of fellow citizens and fellow human
beings.”
Nation of Islam

Bowling with Farrakhan?
ECONOMICS OF HATE

Not the existence of bad groups is a big deal but
reasons to join bad groups is more important.
BAD CIVIL SOCIETY

Do the organizations contain the violence or
hate?
Choosing between a racist in an organization
or a racist at home?
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
Does freedom of association overcome bad civil
society?
 Does pluralism reduce bad civil society?

TO WHAT EXTEND SHOULD THE STATE
RESTRICT BAD CIVIL SOCIETY?

Would state intervention work?

Ex: Domestic organizations funded by international
organizations!