Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The Relationship between Democratization and Invigoration of Civil Society: The Case of Hungary and Poland

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The Relationship between Democratization and Invigoration of Civil Society: The Case of Hungary and Poland

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper argues that democratization does not necessarily bring invigoration of civil society in post-transition countries. Rather than taking for granted democratization as a positive effect on the development of civil society, democratic theory should magnify the conditions under which democratization will have a positive impact on the development of civil society in post-transition countries. In order for that one should put institutionalization of policy-making and internal democracy in civil society organizations under scope. In this sense the main argument of the paper is the following: to an extent that elitism remains embedded into the operations of the political and civil societies during the democratic consolidation period, the effect of democratization on the invigoration of civil society will be crippled. Hungary and Poland are the case studies for this paper.

Hypothetically, the post-transition politics in Hungary and Poland repeatedly illustrate three trajectories: (1) dominant position of the state vis-a-vis the civil society; (2) missing link between leaders and masses in civil society organizations; (3) abstract institutionalization of the participatory aspects of democracy. On the basis of these three trajectories, the paper argues for convergence in Hungary, and Poland with respect to the missing effect of democratization on the invigoration of civil society; and hence, the prevalence of interactions among the political elite and the civil society elite leaving institutions in abstract. These interactions became a source for the continuing elitism. In countries under study, this is where convergence resides. This is despite differences in dissidence, communist system, and transition to democracy in these two countries, which the transition literature has extensively debated so far. (1)

I suggest that there are six reasons of repeated trajectories in Hungary and Poland. At the start of the period of democratic consolidation an avant-garde elite carried out changes in all three countries without the active participation of citizens at large. The groundwork of changes during the democratization period, thereafter, occurred through particular persons (new political elite), who did not delegate the process of change to institutions. Hence, there has been an elite monopoly on deciding for the nature and conduct of economic and political changes. This process was "personalized" but not "institutionalized." At the same rime the new political elite and the elite from the previously dissident civil society formed one subculture alongside the previously power-holder political elite and the elite from the previously transmission belt organizations of the communist party. There happened, as a result, a two-fold elite convergence. This process benefited especially those members of the civil society organizations with expertise [cultural capital]. They used their civil society leadership/membership [social capital] in order to secure a political position [political capital] for themselves. This paved the way for a visible politicization of civil society and elite shift from the civil sphere into the political sphere. Meanwhile, democratic links between the members and leaders in civil society organizations remained missing almost in all cases. There was an appreciation of member involvement in internal decision-making of organizations only in abstract or in rhetoric, which did not provide members with concrete chances of influencing their organizations. Elite-domination in civil society organizations was the result.

Where elite-convergence in the political society meets elite-domination in civil society organizations, patron-client relations--rather than institutions--draw the boundaries of policy-making at the governmental level. Despite the trilateral rhetoric, informal links and political alliances between the previously accounted elite groups determine interest organizations' chances of influencing policy-making. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.