Civil Society Concept, Evolvement and Evolution

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Introduction

Civil society is characterized by complex network of groups and individuals originating from rich associational interactions and relationships. Across the globe, civil society concept evolves from certain associations composed of a variety of organic and organized groups of various functions, forms, and sizes. The landscape of civil society changes with time due to social, political, and economic climate in particular region and the world at large. For instance, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), community based organizations, professional associations, and labor unions become vocal while advocating for certain social, economic or political interests. These organizations and associations affiliate themselves with political party or parties in endeavor to lobby particular interests. Developing a vivid definition of a civil society is daunting task since different civil society groups are based on distinct cultural, social, political, and economic structures. Some are long term while others exist as a project to achieve particular objectives. Various scholars have attempted to come up with acceptable definitions. However, the most popular definition describes civil society as an arena outside the state, the family, and the market developed by collective actions, individuals, organizations, as well as institutions to advance their shared interests.

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The Modern Concept of Civil Society and Its Role in Political Science and Its Manifestations throughout History

The modern civil society emerges from various groups with formal or informal structures but with a common goal. Such groups are not limited to faith-based organizations, registered and unregistered community based organizations, social media communities, social movements, labor organizations, political parties’ sympathizers, and political movements. Civil society groups have been vocal in lobbying social issues. However, their effectiveness in achieving social changed has been questioned. In the Arab world there have been increased public uncertainty and mistrust about their legitimacy and relevance. Similar concern has been expressed in the East and West. Consequently, various governments have introduced administrative and legislative policies to govern their operations. In the Arab world, international and local donors with specific interests fund most civil societies. In most cases, donor interests are political and pose a threat to social and economic stability of the Arab community. Donors with diverse sham political interests hide behind the veil of civil societies in attempt to achieve their objectives. Political status of the Arab world determines its social and economic dynamics. Therefore, if the civil society financiers’ gain access or take control of the political class through their interest group definitely they achieve social and economic gains directly or indirectly. In the East and West, most civil societies exist under the mercy of their financiers. Many governments have implemented sophisticated mechanisms to monitor their operations. Recently, all institutions and organizations that have been linked to billionaire George Soros in United Kingdom are closely being monitored, among them the Chatham house. The businessman is associated with financing the Arab Spring. Governments are instituting counter mechanism to reduce the concentration of civil society groups without political goodwill. The major effort to implement this strategy is through formation of humanitarian organizations and grassroots organizations charged with responsibility of educating the citizens about their rights to collaborate and engage with government through existing constitutional channels.

Civil society in the East and West

In various countries in East and West, region civil societies have experienced manifestation in political science and play a critical role in democracy. They act as instruments for securing interests and rights of citizens. They discharge several cultural, social, economic, moral, among other functions, which are private in nature. They are not a wing of the government yet they execute such responsibilities with the aim of securing general welfare, rights, and development agenda of the citizens.

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The role and strength of the civil society has tremendously increased in the region. They have become more active, alert, and aware. Their continuous presence and success in achieving their objectives has branded them as strong entities that governments cannot ignore. This state has been contributed by the freedom of mass media which broadcasts their activities, existence of democratic governments, and commitment of citizens towards stable states. Additionally, right to information has become a powerful tool for civil societies to implement their objectives. Therefore, they are in a position to spread information and data on various audit governmental agencies audit reports to the citizens. This helps in educating the public about how their tax is being utilized and how the governments are serving its people.

Civil societies act as a watchdog to governments. They keep the governments on their tiptoes so that they can avoid immoral practices such as corruption, detention of citizens without trial, innocent killings, evictions, poor delivery of service, and insecurity among others. Civil societies act as agents of democracy. In an authoritarian system, civil societies are relevant in developing principles of governments. For instance, in 2008, the civil society compelled General Parvex Musharraf to acknowledge and accept holding free and fair elections to constitute Pakistan democratic state. Since the general gave in to the demands of the civil society, Pakistan has been a democratic government.

Civil Society and the Extent of Its Application and Its Presence in the Islamic Context

In Islamic context, Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have been the most vocal civil society groups. They have a rich history of liberating the public from hands of dictator and governments without respect for the rule of law. The history of Muslim brotherhood operations can be traced back in 1940s in Egypt. It took a significant role in Egyptian politics and eventually become a force to reckon with in the country. It was comprised of youth who were relentless to ensure that their country is liberated from the hands of British and the state of affairs remains stable. In the Arab –Israeli war the brotherhood supported the interest of Palestine. It is estimated that by 1950s the movement had almost half a million members. Its members have suffered several persecution and extra judicial killings unfortunate acts, which have seen it reduce its strength in the 21st century. Currently, its approaches and policies are moderate. However, they have implemented radical strategies and programs to institute various regimes, which operate within narrow interpretations of Islamic traditions and law. Hamas is a large civil society organization with military and social welfare wing. Its military wing participates in combat activities in Israel and Palestine. The social wing conducts political activities whereby it is currently is the strongest political force in Palestine. Islamist movements believe that revolution is their single objective, thus, it is logical to demand revolution to occur through any peaceful or lethal mechanism. Islamic beliefs and traditions are the main source of legitimization of Islamic civil societies. The beliefs and traditions gives rise to radical religious groups, which eventually turn, into civil societies.

The Concept of Civil Society in Nineteenth-Century History Philosophies

In the nineteenth century the concept of civil society history philosophies can be attributed to the following sociologist, philosophers and politicians; G.W.F Hegel, Alexis de Toqueville, and Karl Marx. At the beginning of nineteenth century, G.W.F Hegel established civil society evolution idea within historical contexts. He affirmed that it is based on human creation and described it as a distinct sphere from the government within which there are workers and consumers. He explained that social interactions were prevalent within a particular class structure that comprised of farmers, business men, craftsmen, civil servants, and middleclass bureaucrats among others. The objectives of such associations were to achieve welfare for its members. They had an obligation to lobby effective and efficient delivery of services from governments. In some instances, they opposed various government policies that threatened freedom of their members to earn livelihood. These activities assumed civil societies which opposed the governments whereby various interests were in competition without contemplation of the common good. Consequently, Hegel devised Corporation notion to ensure that particular interest do not dominate others. Corporation facilitates mutual acknowledgement of its member’s contributions and needs. It also acts as a mediator between the interest of the state and that of its members. Consequently, since inception of various corporations, they have executed mediation role and taught its members civic virtue. Since then various corporations have been formed and protected interests of both governments and its members.

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A French politician and sociologist Alexis de Toqueville felt that most Americans based their actions on equality and individualism concepts. He felt that there was too much emphasis on individualism. This would result to widespread egoism as well as civic virtue breakdown. Therefore, through a feeling of mutual equality and respect he developed the principle of public participation in government affairs. As a result, various voluntary associations and citizens groups were formed in endeavor to air opinions to the government regarding policies and development agenda that should be established. Due to increase in groups aimed to engage the governments in the direction they should take, states no longer adopted policies without the input of the public. Currently, across the globe there are numerous public participation oriented groups courtesy of Alexis de Toqueville.

Karl Marx a renowned German philosopher got concerned about the rise of various social, political, and economic classes. He perceived that the principle of civil society overwhelmed the public aspect resulting to overemphasis on individual rights to pursue self-interests and de emphasis of citizen rights to pursue communal interests. Therefore, he brought to the lime light the idea of capitalism. Upon the public acknowledging the effects of capitalism they rallied to oppose it whenever it was in existence. This could only be possible through organized group, which eventually formed the civil society in efforts to fight for economic liberation of its people.

Concept of Modernity and the Emergence of Civil Society in the West and East

The idea of civil society has become prominent in economic and political developments during the past two decades. The east and West has been leading in the number of civil society groups. The Arab world has also recorded rise in the number of such groups. the modern civil society agendas revolves around minimizing  negative and socially atomizing effects of market forces, limiting dictatorship government, enforcing political accountability, empowering a popular movement, and improving inclusiveness and quality of governance. In addition, factors such as Government involvement in economic affairs as well as neoconservative attack on developmental and welfare of state have also contributed to increased participation of civil society in creating awareness of various governmental issues.

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In economic level, civil society has helped to alleviate poverty, promote various economic activities of its members, and enhance their welfare. In the Arab world, East and west economic civil society groups are rampant. They are established with the sole goal of uplifting the economic welfare of its members, local or international society. This includes professional associations, business communities, and trade unions. Professional associations lobby for good pay of their members in private and public sector. Business communities lobby for conducive entrepreneurial conditions to be provided by the local and state governments. Trade unions advocate for good working conditions, adequate remuneration and demand various rights for their members. These professional associations, business communities and trade unions have become more vibrant. They no longer observe boundaries since they borrow a leaf from similar groups in neighboring countries or regions. Consequently, a move by a certain professional association in United States of America to compel the government to implement certain policy regarding their career is likely to be copied by such groups in Europe, Asia, and Arab world. Their operations have become like a wave, it just needs to start from a certain point, and eventually it swipes the entire world. In the current decade, Officials of various trade unions across the globe are converging for global conferences whereby they pass various resolutions and force their member states to ratify.

In political level, politicians competing for a leadership position have been using civil society to advance their interests. Various candidates competing for head of state positions have one or several civil societies supporting their bid. The support may be financial, public sensitization or just moral. Civil societies supporting the bid for the head of state candidate have been found to have a hidden agenda. Most of them target governments that are unstable so that they can provide finances to help install their preferred candidate who will be easy to manipulate upon achieving power.

Signs that support the adoption of an inevitable vision of the course of history towards more liberalism and the consolidation of the values ​​of citizenship and gradually civil society.

Rise of Social Media Community

Technology has a brought a new revolution to the world. In fact, all the continents have been reduced to a global village. We are able to exchange ideologies with anonymous people of diverse religious, political, social, and cultural backgrounds. During such interactions people tend to develop a common philosophy towards which they wish the world to adopt. Such philosophies give birth to online groups, which operate within the social media platform by way of spreading relevant information. The groups have got the capacity to carry out campaign for their preferred presidential candidate, taint names of people they oppose or even lobby for particular interests virtually. Therefore, the online community is not a factor to ignore, it is likely to elicit the spirit of liberalism and consolidation of the values of citizenship and gradually emerge as the most powerful civil society platform or group.

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Advancement in Media Broadcast

Television, radio and print media have advanced the manner in which they broadcast. Traditionally, one required to own a television or radio set to access various programs and news. Currently, with just a mobile phone you can access various television and radio channels across the globe. As a result, there are many people accessing news than it was 20 years ago. This is breakthrough towards liberalism. Noble Actions of particular activists, organization and other groups operating as civil society easily reach billions of people when broadcasted. Individuals or organizations receiving such news can decide to support such actions. Thus, in the near future, lobbyist actions of civil society will have strong magnitude than that of a hurricane.

Extent to Which Civil Society can be Classified as a Counter-State as Proposed by Theorists

Not all civil society has political good will. Some focus to counter the operations of the state. When they finance activities that cripple healthy performance of the government, they can be classified as counter state agencies. This involves activities which are not limited to financing terrorist activities to disrupt peace and stability of the state and initiating economic sabotage operations. Counter state civil groups can only benefit when the respective government is unstable. The benefits they endeavor to gain include; sale of weapons and drugs as well as implementation of preferred economic channels that benefits them only.

Conclusion

Across the globe, civil society concept evolves from certain associations composed of a variety of organic and organized groups of various functions, forms, and sizes. In the modern society of civil society emerges from various groups with formal or informal structures but with a common goal. In the Arab world there have been increased public uncertainty and mistrust about their legitimacy and relevance. Political status of the Arab world determines its social and economic dynamics. Therefore, if the civil society financiers’ gain access or take control of the political class through their interest group definitely they achieve social and economic gains directly or indirectly. In various countries in East and West region civil societies have experienced manifestation in political science and play a critical role in democracy. Their role and strength of the civil society has tremendously increased. Civil societies act as a watchdog to governments. In Islamic context Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have been the most vocal civil society groups. In the nineteenth century the concept of civil society history philosophies can be attributed to the following sociologist, philosophers and politicians; G.W.F Hegel, Alexis de Toqueville, and Karl Marx. In modern civil society concept the East and West has been leading in the number of civil society groups while the Arab world has also recorded rise in the number of such groups. Social media is likely to bring a breakthrough to liberalism in the near future. Some civil society groups act as counter state agencies as a result of their actions towards financing activities that cripple the government.

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  1.  Anheier Helmut. Civil Society: “Measurement, Evaluation, Policy. London: Taylor & Francis. 2013.
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  5. Hodgkinson Virginia and Foley Micheal. The civil reader. New Hamshire: UPNE. 2009.
  6. Kabst Rudiger and Steinmetz Holger. Trust in politicians and satisfaction with government-A reciprocal Causation approach for European countries. Journal of Civil society 13 no. 4(2017): 392-405.
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  8. Radiuliewicz Anna. Activits’ perceptions of their roles in civic organizations: a case from Poland. Journal of Civil society 13 no. 4(2017): 426-442.
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  10.  Soares Philip. Civil Society in Modern Democracies: Definition, Impact on Democracy and Critical Assessment. Munich: GRIN Verlag. 2009.
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