Magazine article Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - Reports

The Mobilization of Conservative Civil Society

Magazine article Carnegie Endowment for International Peace - Reports

The Mobilization of Conservative Civil Society

Article excerpt


GARETH FOWLER was a 2017-2018 James C. Gaither junior fellow in Carnegie's Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program.

ARTHUR LAROK is the federation development director at ActionAid. He previously held the post of country director of ActionAid Uganda. He is the outgoing chairperson of the Uganda National NGO Forum. He is a member of Carnegie's Civic Research Network.

PAWEŁ MARCZEWSKI is a sociologist and head of the Citizens research unit at the ideaForum of the Batory Foundation. He is a contributing writer at the Polish weekly magazine Tygodnik Powszechny and member of the editorial board of Przegląd Polityczny quarterly.

VIJAYAN MJ is an activist and analyst based in New Delhi, India. He is a member of the Research Collective-PSA and Carnegie's Civic Research Network.

GHIA NODIA is professor of politics and director of the International School of Caucasus Studies in Ilia Chavchavadze State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. He is also a founder of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development.

NATALIA SHAPOVALOVA is a visiting fellow at Carnegie Europe, where her research focuses on Eastern Europe, with particular focus on Ukraine and EU policy toward the Eastern neighborhood. She is a member of Carnegie's Civic Research Network.

JANJIRA SOMBATPOONSIRI is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Political Science at Thammasat University in Thailand. She is a member of Carnegie's Civic Research Network.

MARISA VON BÜLOW is a professor at the Political Science Institute of the University of Brasilia, Brazil. She is a member of Carnegie's Civic Research Network.

RICHARD YOUNGS is a senior fellow in the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, based at Carnegie Europe.

ÖZGE ZIHNIOĞLU is an associate professor in the Department of International Relations at Istanbul Kültür University in Turkey. She is a member of Carnegie's Civic Research Network.


Richard Youngs

As the domain of civil society burgeoned in the 1990s and early 2000s-a crucial component of the global spread of democracy in the developing and postcommunist worlds-many transnational and domestic actors involved in building and supporting this expanding civil society assumed that the sector was naturally animated by organizations mobilizing for progressive causes. Some organizations focused on the needs of underrepresented groups, such as women's empowerment, inclusion of minorities, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights; others addressed broader societal issues such as economic justice, social welfare, and antipoverty concerns. In many countries, the term "civil society" came to be associated with a relatively bounded set of organizations associated with a common agenda, one separate from or even actively opposed by conservative political forces.

However, in the past ten years, this assumption and outlook are proving increasingly incorrect. In many countries in the developing and postcommunist worlds, as well as in long-established Western democracies, conservative forms of civic activism have been multiplying and gaining traction. In some cases, new conservative civic movements and groups are closely associated with illiberal political actors and appear to be an integral part of the well-chronicled global pushback against Western liberal democratic norms. In other cases, the political alliances and implications of conservative civil society are less clear. In almost all cases-other than perhaps that of the United States, where the rise of conservative activism has been the subject of considerable study-this rising world of conservative civil society has been little studied and often overlooked.

This report seeks to correct this oversight and to probe more deeply into the rise of conservative civil society around the world. It does so under the rubric of Carnegie's Civic Research Network project, an initiative that aims to explore new types of civic activism and examine the extent to which these activists and associations are redrawing the contours of global civil society. …

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