(Anti)social Capital in the Production of an (Un)civil Society in Pakistan*

By Mustafa, Daanish | The Geographical Review, July 2005 | Go to article overview

(Anti)social Capital in the Production of an (Un)civil Society in Pakistan*


Mustafa, Daanish, The Geographical Review


Pakistan is home to some of the most widely admired and emulated examples of nongovernmental-sector-based service-delivery and advocacy groups, such as the Orangi Pilot Project, the Edhi Foundation, and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (Ghafoor 1987; UNDP 2000). (1) Yet the same society that has generated such positive civil-society activism, including legal aid to abused women, free ambulance services, and much else, is also home to a multiplicity of very visible nongovernmental actors espousing religious extremism and violence: (2) some religious seminaries from which the Taliban movement in Afghanistan emerged, Hizbul Mujahideen, and many others supporting violent activities around the world (Zaman 1998; Rashid 2000). (3) These groups challenge some of the fondly held notions by development practitioners about the desirability of the nongovernmental sector taking the lead in the delivery of education, health care, and environmental management services, among others, and playing an advocacy role for human rights, women's rights, environmental justice, and other socially desirable goals (Farrington and Bebbington 1993; GOP 1993; Vetter 1995). This article uses the social-capital/civil-society-based literature as a conceptual lens through which to examine the relative strength, impact, and interplay of democratic and/or developmentalist forces, and antidemocratic and/or violent forces in Pakistani society. Two nongovernmental organizations/movements--Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic revivalist organization, and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan--serve as examples to investigate the process of (anti)social capital mobilization in Pakistan.

The literature on nongovernmental organizations (NGOS) and social movements is often linked to the twin concepts of social capital and civil society. "Social capital" is defined as norms of behavior and the social and functional relations between individuals and groups, which may facilitate the actions of the social actors (Coleman 1988) and constitute a building block for a civil society. "Civil society" is conceptualized as a space occupied by social institutions and groups between the state, markets, and individual households (McIlwaine 1998). This conceptualization--although it assumes civility and positive interactions within the civil society (4)--nonetheless allows many types of agendas to be subsumed within the (un)civil-society/social-capital-based discourse: for example, wealth generation, social justice and empowerment, and, technically, also discrimination and violence. Considerable attention is paid to questions of how to create and increase societies' stocks of social capital and, consequently, strengthen civil society (Putnam, Leonardi, and Nanetti 1993; Serageldin and Steer 1994; Ritchey-Vance 1996; Narayan 1999; Mohan and Mohan 2002). But the unexplored question has been how to strengthen civil society against uncivil social forces with (anti)social capital; that is, social norms and networks that impose excessive financial or social obligations on actors or further solidify criminal and/or violent forces in a society (see Portes and Landolt 2000).

A substantial body of literature speaks to the efficacy of the nongovernmental sector in service delivery (Lam 1995; Bebbington, Quisbert, and Trujillo 1996; Bebbington 1997; Buckland 1998; Bebbington and Perreault 1999; Groenfeldt and Svendsen 2000) and in social mobilization and voicing the concerns of the vulnerable and traditionally underrepresented segments of a society (Rivera-Cusicanqui 1990; Escobar and Alvarez 1992; Johnson and Wilson 2000). Some literature suggests that NGOS, citizen groups, and social movements have fallen short of expectations with respect to their expressed missions and functions because of managerial and strategic missteps (Edwards and Hulme 1996; Edwards 1999) or hostile social and political environments (Fox 1996; Booth and Richard 1998). But in very few of the cases is the balance between positive social capital and what Mauricio Rubio (1997) calls "perverse social capital" and Alejandro Portes and Patricia Landolt (2000) call "negative social capital" in a society empirically investigated and specifically linked to social contexts.

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