Academic journal article Manager

Civil Society Organizations' Contribution to Democratic Governance in European Union

Academic journal article Manager

Civil Society Organizations' Contribution to Democratic Governance in European Union

Article excerpt

l.Concept of Civil Society

The term civil society has been perceived by different scholars to be associated by any organized group of people independent from the state and partly self sustaining. The question of civil society organizations being non-profit making to my understanding is still debatable due to the fact that according to some scholars even business entities and trade unions can be categorized as civil society organizations or associations. This can be depicted from Antonio Gramsci's perception of civil society as a "private" realm that includes unions which renders civil society organizations not to only be limited to nonprofit making. In reference to other scholars, Rollin considers any grouping that assumes representation of collective interests can be claimed as part of civil society, or civil society may be defined as the totality of civic engagements citizens commit to join in the polity (Anheir, 2004; Cohen and Arato, 1992; Walzer, 1991), at other times, the concept of civil society is conflated with that of social capital, as in the work of Michael Edwards (2004) and Edwards' conceptual definition of civil society includes civic engagements that promote an associational life, a good society, and a public sphere in which ideas and ideologies can be discussed and debated1. Therefore, one can only conclude that civil society has no clear definition but only stems from civic engagement and participation in public affairs.

Kenneth Newton (1997) categorized civil society into norms, networks, and resources, an approach carried on in more recent research, as when Gibson (2001) looked at the impact of the density of social networks (a proxy for civil society) on facilitating citizen support for democracy in Russia (see Rollin F. Tusalem 2007: 364). Larry Diamond (1999) has responded by offering a parsimonious definition of civil society as it relates to democratic politics (see Rollin F. Tusalem 2007:364). For Diamond (1999: 221), civil society is "The realm of organized social life that is open, voluntary, self-generating, at least partially self-supporting, autonomous from the state, and that is bound by a legal order or a set of shared collective rules (see Rollin F. Tusalem 2007: 364)." His conclusion is that in this definition, civil society is composed of social actors who recognize the primacy of state authority and the rule of law, permitting Diamond to exclude groups that are formed with the goal of destabilizing the state and according to him Linz and Stepan (1996) have adopted this definition in their work as well. Therefore in reference to the all the above definitions and scholarly understanding of civil society, one can conclude that civil society being a wide concept it has been widely looked at and is not only limited to promoting civil liberties but also promoting rule of law, good governance, equality and social welfare of citizens and tries to bridge the gap between the highly ranked government officials that is bureaucrats and politicians and citizens to ensure that there is efficiency and effectiveness in all forms of service delivery.

Civicus Civil Society Index 2006 however defines civil society as the arena, outside of the family, the state and the market where people associate to advance common interests According to it, the term 'arena' is used to describe the particular space in a society where people come together to debate, discuss, associate and seek to influence broader society2. Another key feature is the acknowledgement of the 'fuzziness' of the boundaries between the spheres of civil society, the state, the market and family, since, in practice, many forms of collective citizen action are difficult to categorize into a specific sphere.

Civil society organizations have a wide range of functions and roles from the political theory point of view. Such functions include; protection which was put forward by John Locke and it covers Organizations and associations like NGOs and Trade or labor unions, Intermediation that was suggested by Montesquieu meaning they intermediate between individual citizens and the state, Socialization that was put forward by Toqueville, Integration by Putnam and communication role of Civil Society Organizations by Habermass Arato/Cohen. …

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