Essay On Civil Society And Parliamentary Democracy

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In either case – whether the target is another wing of the state, or groups in society – what is clear is that there is a chain of connections between parties in power and organised social groups, which call into question a sharp distinction between states and civil society.Some of these organisations are in fact so powerful that they constitute almost parallel states in their areas of influence (like the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the Maoists in Nepal, before the peace accord) (Gellner 2007 ; Trawick 2007).Adherence to law per se cannot be the hallmark of whether any group is legitimately part of civil society or not, or even tell us anything about whether such a group or movement stands for democratic change.Groups like the Taliban, which are clearly patriarchal and regressive in their ideology, also have the support of young people for whom the Taliban represents an avenue for social mobility as against the tribal elders (Abou Zahab 2010).The same kind of unemployed youth may join the progressive ‘Naxalites’ (Maoist guerillas) or the dangerous Hindu right wing organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, depending on whose area of influence they find themselves in.The state is not a neutral actor, standing high above these contending agencies, but actively intervenes in the very constitution of these agencies as well as in social movements.We must keep in mind too, that sometimes progressive states may falter before regressive societies, ie the locus of democratic change must be looked for not only in civil society but also in the state. The first part maps civil society in Asia, exploring the range of non-governmental actors which exist, and which contribute to the struggle for democratic change or obstruct it.While civil society is a useful locus to explore this contest, given that it is internally divided, we need to analyse constituent elements separately for their relationship to the state, and for their democratic potential.Further, the state itself is not a homogenous entity, and one faction of the state may mobilise society against other factions of the state.In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Thailand, for instance, some political parties extend into social movements which are pitted against the military regime.


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