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Civil Society Politics


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Civil Society Politics

  1. 1. Centre for Civil Society Civil Society Politics - Power to the People The Politics We Are Yearning for in the 21st Century
  2. 2. Centre for Civil Society What is the problem? Around the world politics is in disrepute.  It has become detached from society, unresponsive to its needs.  It seems incapable of solving the big economic, social and environmental challenges. Public leadership remains important, but politics is everywhere discredited.
  3. 3. Centre for Civil Society  In western societies – politics no longer inspires, cynicism rules, citizens feel powerless.  In post-communist societies – initial enthusiasm for democracy has given way to detachment, citizens feel powerless.  In emerging democracies - citizenship is fragile, institutions are weak, corruption abounds, citizens feel powerless.
  4. 4. Centre for Civil Society Is there an alternative to failed politics and citizen detachment?
  5. 5. Centre for Civil Society Civil Society comprises the relationships and activities that constitute our lives, the things we do as civilians, freely and voluntarily, in association with others, outside the state and the market. Social well-being is largely determined in and through our relationships in civil society. Our experience of care and belonging is formed by these relationships.
  6. 6. Centre for Civil Society ut … for more than a century, political movements, governments and public policy have focussed almost exclusively on states and markets, and ignored civil society (the sphere of life that is most important for most of us most of the time).
  7. 7. Centre for Civil Society ivil society relationships are horizontal, relational and voluntary. tate-citizen interactions are vertical and coercive. usiness-customer interactions are monetary exchanges. When political movements, governments and public policy focussed exclusively on states and markets for a century, they focussed only on state-citizen and
  8. 8. Centre for Civil Society hy was civil society marginalised for a century? istorically - the 20th century was the century of concentrated power (Communism, Fascism, World Wars, Big Business). Civil society is dispersed, localised, small in scale. deologically - the philosophies of the 20th century were individualist-collectivist (Fordism, Marxism, Nazism, Existentialism, Scientific Management, Neo-Liberalism). rganisationally - labour unions and corporations were easy
  9. 9. Centre for Civil Society 20th Century Politics…  If you didn’t like the focus on the market and commercial interactions, you were on the Left.  If you didn’t like the focus on the state and the public sector, you were on the Right.  Left and Right formed a stable linear structure for politics without civil society.
  10. 10. Centre for Civil Society Notions of Left and Right in the 20th Century felt like the natural order of things, the natural way of thinking about politics… without civil society.
  11. 11. Centre for Civil Society Left and Right 1.0  Focus exclusively on states and markets.  See the public sector or the private sector as the solution to every problem.  See the imposition of state or market solutions on society as the proper business of government.
  12. 12. Centre for Civil Society Left and Right 2.0  See only individuals and governments as social actors.  Can not see associations of citizens and their interactions.  Do not see individualism and collectivism as flip sides of the same coin.
  13. 13. Centre for Civil Society Left and Right 3.0  Serve core public and private sector constituencies (public employees for the Left; corporates and certain professional groups for the Right).  Ignore the third sector (households, associations, clubs, charities, social enterprises, cooperatives) .  Ignore family and small-businesses and the self-employed (a vast and growing sector but one which does not fit the management goals of Left or Right).
  14. 14. Centre for Civil Society Left and Right 4.0  See politics as ‘management’, the execution of top-down, corporate-style administration.  Use political parties as their instruments of management, based on top-down, command-and-control cultures.  These parties no longer need citizens, and now comprise professional operatives, ‘career politicians’, a ‘political class’.
  15. 15. Centre for Civil Society This is the politics that we have inherited from the 20th century, which is now in disrepute around the world… What comes next?
  16. 16. Centre for Civil Society Civil Society Politics is:  A response to the marginalisation of civil society in the political arena.  A response to the invisibility of civil society in policy making.  A response to the exclusion of civil society from public decision-making.
  17. 17. Centre for Civil Society Civil Society Politics seeks:  Representation of civil society in politics.  Policy making that strengthens civil society.  Transfer of power from states and markets to civil society.  Renewal of democracy by placing citizens and civil society at the centre.
  18. 18. Centre for Civil Society A common voice for civil society? Amidst its vastness and diversity, civil society has three common features: Relational – defined by relationships Associational – driven by formal or informal bonds Voluntary – formed without coercion These three features link the 10 threads of civil society:
  19. 19. Centre for Civil Society The 10 threads of civil society Family, kinship and friendship Household or domestic economy Neighbourhoods and informal social supports Voluntary associations NGOs and charities Self-help and support groups Cooperatives and mutuals Social enterprises Self-employment, family-enterprises, small businesses Religion, faith and spirituality
  20. 20. Centre for Civil Society an these threads of civil society be represented in politics? They constitute: ast social constituencies anchored in communities eep pools of cultural and intellectual resources xtensive networks of networks
  21. 21. Centre for Civil Society ivil Society Politics has 3 major advantages over 20th Century Politics: t is anchored in communities. t aims to capture power not for itself but for civil society. t has cultural and intellectual resources with which to reform politics.
  22. 22. Centre for Civil Society ivil Society Politics has 3 major advantages over other political reform movements: t is anchored in communities. t aims to capture power not for itself but for civil society. t has a built-in safeguard against extremism and the
  23. 23. Centre for Civil Society ivil Society Politics is made viable by new technology: ndividuals and groups can connect and organise online, locally, nationally and globally. he financial cost of political organising and electoral activity can be reduced by low-cost networking and crowdsourcing.
  24. 24. Centre for Civil Society ivil Society Politics is the only practical way to devolve Power to the People: n 20th Century Politics, Power to the People movements invariably ended up transferring power to the state or to markets (from Fidel Castro to Steve Jobs). e can’t allow another century to go by without transferring Power to the People.
  25. 25. Centre for Civil Society So, then, how can Civil Society Politics take the world by storm?
  26. 26. Centre for Civil Society Civil Society Politics is:  A movement - which individuals may join.  Global in scope - civil society is global, and a new political movement is needed in every country.  Open to members of existing parties and members of none, including those who seek new parties based on civil society politics.
  27. 27. Centre for Civil Society First Steps:  An online tool will be created through which individuals and groups in every country can join Civil Society Politics.  Members in each country can network with each other and take initiatives as they see fit (including those who are members of the same political party, and those who seek to form a new party).  An international coordinating council will be established.
  28. 28. Centre for Civil Society What you can do:  Discuss this paper and its ideas.  Send your feedback to  Express your interest in participating in an international coordinating council to
  29. 29. Centre for Civil Society Contact: Vern Hughes Centre for Civil Society