The Tragedy of Yugoslavia: The Failure of Democratic Transformation

By Jim Seroka; Vukasin Pavlovic | Go to book overview

3.

Civil Society in Slovenia
From Opposition to Power

Tomaz Mastnak

In Slovenia, as elsewhere in the socialist half of Europe, "civil society" is the concept that summarizes the process of the democratization of society and the transformation from totalitarianism to democracy. 1 As elsewhere, the concept implies a normative political philosophy which helps us to describe, analyze, and understand a wide range of empirical democratic struggles. The distinctive feature of the transformation to democracy in Slovenia, however, is that it was initiated by the new social movements and that they—and not dissident intellectuals, or reform communists, or the aging New Left elite—played the crucial role in the formative period of civil society. The network they formed called itself the "Alternative Scene," or simply the "Alternative."

Civil society emerged in 1983 following a seminar and happening called "What is Alternative?" organized by the Alternative Scene in Ljubljana. The designation "civil society" is based on an interpretation of the experiences of the autonomous social groups which were active from the second half of the 1970s. Most importantly, it indicated a vision of independent social action for the future. 2 Overall, civil society was invented by the Alternative, and the concept was first applied to this movement as an analytical model and as a political norm. The participants in the Alternative Scene, including the new social movements, were the main actors involved in the development of a civil society. The institutions of the Alternative Scene became the crucial institutions in the formative stages of the civil society, and the alternative public sphere became the catalyst for the emergence of an independent public.

It is important to note that civil society was initially conceived as

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