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State Civil Society Relationship Social Work Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 5401 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The concept of civil society remains elusive, complex and contested. There are different meanings and interpretations and, over time, different schools of thought have influenced theoretical debates and empirical research. Civil society is conceived to be an arena of un-coerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. As a public sphere where citizens and voluntary organizations freely engage, it is distinct from the state, family and the market. From the above conceptions of civil society, they can therefore be considered as the wide array of non-governmental and non-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, science, religious or philanthropic considerations (World Bank 2006, Kaldor 2003, Carothers 2000).

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The concept has its origin from the Greek philosophy though some scholars consent that its origin dates back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Kaldor 2003, John et al., 1999) Civil society also has been centrally linked to the  contemporary status of  democracy and  change in the world.  It has been presented as the beacon of freedom, the fountain for the protection of civil rights and of resistance against state repression, the mobilizing platform of society for the protection and projection of substantive interests, the compelling force for state moderation and the epitome of popular struggles and civil power has been a central force in political and economic reforms. The activities and even proliferation of civil groups have been seen by several scholars as vital to the democratization process and its sustenance.

Donor discourse on international development policy now places much emphasis on civil society than in the past. Therefore it would be worthy to note that in practical sense, the boundaries between state, civil society and even market can hardly be defined or drawn (Kane, 2001, Camarrof, 1999, John et al., 1999, Salamon and Anheier 1996). Hyden (1995)  further clarifies on the concept by  emphasizing that there are variables that determine civil society, these include: basis of social action, nature of state action, nature of political legacy and nature of inter-cultural relations. But above all these, from myriad studies conducted, it is clear that the middle class has on large extent paved the way for civil society especially in fostering democracy.

1.1 Objective

The purpose of this research is to understand reality of civil society in Uganda in relation to the theoretical concept of civil society and to go deep to understand the bilateral functions of civil society in Uganda. This study may be of great use to the policy makers, civil society actors, legislators and researchers who might be more enlightened about civil society in Uganda. In doing so the study will be contributing to the board of knowledge about civil society in Uganda.

1.2 Disposition

This thesis will be organized as follows; the subsequent chapter (two) will present methodology used in this study. Chapter three will present conceptual framework. This will include definitions and the concept of civil society that I consider to be crucial for this study. Chapter four will be about civil society reality in Uganda. Chapter five will be about data presentation and analysis.

1.3 Problem Statement

The past two decades have witnessed a proliferation of civil society organisations and they have made big strides towards improving the interplay between political and economic systems and thus have ensured democratic, participatory and decision making in society (World Bank 2006). NORAD (2003), UN-RISD (2005) present state, private sector and civil society as three separate arenas of development that operate independently from each other. Civil society has been well acknowledged as an important third sector whose strengths have positively influenced state and market and it is an important agent for promoting transparency, responsibility, accountability and openness. Civil society model recognizes  functions that are believed to be universally applied in all societies and according to Edwards 2004, World Bank 2003, SIDA 2005, the core functions of civil society include: to protect the citizens’ lives, property and freedoms; monitoring activities of state, central powers and state apparatus; advocacy through articulation of interests of the citizens; socialization through practicing values and attitudes of democracy; intermediation and facilitation between state and citizens; building communities through voluntary interactions that build a bond between members of the society and service delivery in social service sector.

Despite its increased importance and value, civil society in developing world has lingered behind and somewhat not understood. In Uganda, the basic descriptive information about civil society, its size, area of activity, sources of revenue and the policy framework in which it operates seem not to be available in an organized way. There seems to be domination of state and market while civil society structures are superficial and are shadows of the ideal model of civil society (Salamon, Sokolowski and Associates, 2003). Moreover, civil society tend to play a supportive role rather than confrontational or conscious raising roles. A report by NORAD (2002) indicates that the involvement of civil society in policy processes is cosmetic with limited impacts in Ugandan society.

Therefore the actual situation about civil society in Uganda seems not to be according to ideal model of civil society in western societies. The point of departure in this study is to investigate and compare civil society reality in Uganda to the ideal concept of civil society in developed, modern and democratic societies while also trying to understand why the bilateral function of civil society in Uganda seem not to work properly. The purpose of the study therefore, is to investigate, understand and eliminate this discrepancy and comprehend the bilateral functioning of the civil society in Uganda with subsequent benefits derived from it.

1.4 StudyObjectives

The general aim of the study is to investigate the reality of civil society in Uganda in relation to the general concept of civil society. There are a number of specific objectives, these include:

  • To identify major areas of operation by civil society in Uganda.
  • To identify the major actors of civil society in Uganda.
  • To identify functions of civil society
  • To find out factors that influence State-CSOs relationship in area of advocacy.
  • To determine whether the Western models of CSOs are applicable in Uganda.

Research questions

  1. How applicable is the western model of civil society in Uganda’s context?
  2. How is the relationship between state and CSOs in Uganda?
  3. In what areas of operation are CSOs active in Uganda?
  4. Who are the major actors of civil society in Uganda?
  5. What are the factors that influence the relationship between state and civil society in policy advocacy in Uganda?
  6. What are the functions of civil society in Uganda

1.5 Research Frontier

The thesis aims at filling an apparent gap that exists since most studies have primarily focused on other areas of civil society like the relationship with political parties, civil society in conflict resolution and in poverty alleviation but little has been written on the civil society reality in Uganda with reference to the model concept of civil society.

1.6 Significance of the study

The study will contribute to the board of knowledge. It will be used as a literature for the future studies related to civil society and state in Uganda.

The study findings can also be used to harmonize the relationship between state and civil society so that they can work for the benefit of citizens in the country.

1.7 Structure

This thesis will consist of 6 chapters. Chapter 1 will be about Introduction of the study. Chapter 2 will include conceptual framework while Chapter 3 will be about Literature review. Chapter 4 will consist of Methodology and chapter 5 will be on Data analysis and results. The last Chapter 6 will consist of Conclusions and Recommendations.


2.0 Methodology of the Study

This chapter is about the methods that have been used in this study and explains the approaches that will be used in order to understand civil society reality in Uganda in relation to the model of the concept in the western democratic societies.

2.1 Methods

This is a qualitative study primarily based on desk research of available documentations about civil society as well as few interviews from the civil society actors in Uganda. The method used for this study has some advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages include: it saves time that would otherwise have been spent on collecting data. It provided a broad data base more than what one can collect. Secondary data also provided the basis for comparisons of the information about civil society in Uganda with the model concept of civil society in the western societies. Lastly, the author did not worry about the informed consent and human subject restrictions and the method is relatively cheap.

Much as the benefits of secondary sources are considerable, their disadvantages are also identified. There was likelihood of having outdated data. The author had no control over how the data was collected. There may be biases in the data that was already collected by researchers.

In order to ensure reliability and validity of the study, many comparisons between the data were made. This involved checking other sources such as other references and information from highly regarded sites on the internet for instance from World Bank, donor agencies, universities among others. The information used was in line with what was collected from other sources. The information is also reliable in a way that it was collected from government documents and other sites mentioned above. The information was valid since the findings relate to the issues and aim of the study.

2.2 Type of study-Case study

A case of Uganda will be used. Goerge and Bennet 2005:18 define case study “as well-defined aspect of a historical episode that an investigator selects for analysis, rather than a historical event itself”. Case study is one of the several methods used in conducting studies in the area of social science, psychology, political science and it has the following advantages:

It will be used in this study because of its high possibility or ability to achieve high conceptual validity. In other words, the researcher is able to compare, measure and identify which indicators best correspond to the concept.  It has also been chosen because it helps to understand a variety of intervening variables and makes it possible to single out conditions in a case that trigger out causal mechanisms. However, case study method has a weakness of selection bias. In other words, there is a possibility of overstating or understating the relationship between independent and dependent variables (ibid)

2.3 Data collection

The nature of the study requires drawing lessons from multiple sources. Therefore, in undertaking this, it is proposed that a wide range of data collection methods should be used, both primary and secondary sources of data. The methods will capture qualitative data. The method will provide flexibility in data collection through triangulation of different research methods. This approach will also assist in cross checking information.

2.4 Primary Sources of Data

Different stakeholders will be targeted since they are able to provide valuable insights on various issues of the interest of the study. Among the specific methods that will be used to collect primary data will include:

Semi-Structured Interviews

Semi-structured interviews will be used with key informants in Uganda such as Civil Society actors. Interviews in this regards will be very helpful as they will deal with more detailed perceptions and experiences. The researcher intends to have deep and rich interaction with key informants in order to understand various issues pertaining to the various opportunities and challenges that Civil Society Organizations face. In all cases, confidentiality of sources of information will be ensured to allow for discussion of more sensitive issues.

2.5 Secondary Sources of Data

Relevant literature pertaining to issues under investigation will be collected from the various sources including government documents about CSO and official reports from various sources, including published books, journals, and other relevant materials will be consulted. Internet resources shall also be used to access relevant information as well.

Combining various methods of collecting data will enrich the whole study as each method of collecting data will capture a specific angle of the issue in consideration. Furthermore, different methods tend to have weaknesses when used in isolation, so combining various approaches will enhance chances of getting more reliable information upon which inferences will be drawn.

2.6 Sampling procedure

A non probability sampling strategy will be used, that is, Purposive sampling. This type of sampling will be used because it is helpful in targeting and getting views from those people who are perceived to be well vested with issues of civil society and policy advocacy in particular.

2.7 Data Analysis

Qualitative data from semi-structured interviews will be analyzed using qualitative techniques such as thematic analysis. This will be used because it is highly inductive and will help in understanding more about civil society in Uganda.  Another advantage is that the researcher does not impose themes but rather themes are generated from the data.

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2.8 Secondary and content analysis

Secondary analyses in this case regard to the studies that are taken from historical data as well as informational materials that exist beforehand but analyzed by other researchers which can be used as sources for new research or study under investigation (Goerge and Bennet, 2005). This will be used in this study on civil society in Uganda in relation to the model of concept of civil society in developed world.

2.9 Content analysis

This is another approach if used properly enables research problems to be identified both qualitatively and quantitatively. Three basic requirements used in this method include. First, the author should be objective, in other words he/she should not follow their instincts or the way they see materials but should follow an objective approach of representing the materials. In this study this will be followed and done. Second, is the exclusion and inclusion of the content. This implies that the author in some cases has to include or exclude some contents much as it can be useful or useless for the study (Mikkelsen, 2005). This has also been applied in this study in order to ensure coherence.

2.10 Materials used

Materials used in this study were obtained from already published books, articles and journals. Additional materials were obtained through the internet via various data bases that include: ELIN, LIBRIS, Google scholar. Official government websites were also used as well as other reputable sources like official website of the United Nations, World Bank, academic institutions and think tank organisations were also used.

Other relevant information about civil society in Uganda was obtained from the news paper publications of The New Vision, The Daily Monitor and The Weekly Observer and bulletins from civil society organisations in Uganda.

2.10.1 Evaluation of the sources

When dealing with sources which normally present different views from different authors, it is important to remain unbiased while using them as the source of information for the study but students normally find it very difficult to deal with. In order to evaluate the sources this study will base on the set of methodological rules of simultaneity, genuineness, independence and tendency.

2.11 Previous Studies on Civil Society

Several studies have been conducted and many authors have written a lot about civil society. Kaldor Mary (2003) a school professor on Global civil society at London School of Economics in her article “Civil Society and Accountability” highlights the issue of trusting civil society groups in regard to giving the voice to the marginalized. She further sheds more light about moral accountability and procedural accountability referring civil society groups being accountable to the people they serve and accountability as internal management respectively. She finally elaborates on difference between Non-Governmental Organisations and civil society by indicating that the former is a subset of the latter.

John Keane, a re-known scholar and a Professor of Politics at the Center for Study of Democracy, university of Westminister. He has published many books and articles on civil society, democracy and politics. He has collected myriad samples about what writers have produced on the subject of civil society especially writers in Europe. In one of his books “Civil Society and the State, New European perspective”. He clarifies on distinction between state and non-state realm of civil society. He further coins out why the distinction which was important in the first half of nineteen century but later lost trace (Keane, 1988).

Hyden Göran a professor of political science at the University of Florida. He has published a lot on governance, politics and civil society. In one of his books “Assisting the growth of civil society. How might it be improved?” he analyses various literatures on civil society and supports the idea that civil society is an important tool that has been directed at promoting democracy in societies which are under dictatorial regimes. He further points out that in many cases external support is meant to complement the efforts of transition from despotic rule, but rather, the strengths of civil society depend on the domestic social forces of a certain country (Hyden, 1995).

A study conducted by World Bank, (2006) elaborates that increase in conflicts in 1990s contributed to a focus on civil society as key actors in peace building initiatives and hugely contributed to massive increase of civil society sector. The study also points out that the presence of civil society does not simply result to peace building, but rather, proper understanding and analysis of civil society functions, validity, scope and content are paramount to peace building initiatives.


Conceptual Framework of Civil Society

3.1 Defining Civil Society

Different scholars define civil society differently. Some scholars define it broadly while others define it in specific or narrow terms. For instance Carothers (2000), Kaldor (2003) define it in specific terms as “a domain parallel to but separate from the state realm where citizens associate according to their own interests and wishes” (Carothers, 2000:1) and Kaldor, (2003) defines it as an associational sphere between state and family aggregated by organisations which are detached from the state and they are formed by society members voluntarily to guard and preserve their values and interests. From the above definitions, there is a common thread in which all authors depict civil society as autonomous from state and market. Further, there seems to be a consensus among the definitions on the term civil society signifying that it is an arena or sphere made up of different or a collection of groups amalgamated together with the a common shared purpose, values or interests. Is this amalgamation of different groups harmonious? It seemly unlikely to have a harmonious relationship between these groups because they have different interests, values and their social fabric is totally different. Therefore to belong to one sphere or dome and have same reasoning, tolerance among each other and advance one goal as civil society sector might remain a myth not a reality.

However, some scholars define civil society broadly to mean that it goes beyond being an arena between state and family. For instance Centre for Civil Society goes further to mean that civil society does not only mean a sphere outside state and market but even its boundaries in between them can never be drawn and therefore very ambiguous and Shauder et al., (2003) portray it as an all-inclusive term often used to mean social structures and interests further than household and outside the state institutions, including voluntary associations and non-profit organizations where people mingle for their collective interests. It would be argued that by making civil society all-inclusive like what Shauder et al argues above, renders it more ambiguous because like it was earlier argued, merging different groups of different backgrounds clearly makes civil society mysterious concept.

There is another category of scholars who define civil society in a broad way for instance Cohen and Arato (1992), Michael and Edwards (1996:1) look at civil society as not only a sphere of charitable links and informal networks in which groups and individuals come together to participate in activities of public importance but also is a realm of private voluntary association, from neighbourhood committees to interest groups and philanthropic enterprises of all sorts.

According to the definitions above, civil society is consented as a set of voluntary and not-for-profits associations sharing same interests. This is not far from what has been defined by afore mentioned authors but the difference here is that Shauder et al broaden the definition to imply that civil society goes beyond household and state while Cohen and Arato include an aspect of “charitable links” and “informal networks” to the definition, to some scholars it is a mixture of formal and informal and perhaps that why its boundaries are unclear. These links and networks as commonly known are horizontal linkages/networks and vertical linkages, that is, a connection of groups in a same category and connection of groups in different categories respectively. These different points of view clearly depict the term civil society to be an imperceptible concept which many social scientist have come up to conclude that it has no universal definition and therefore difficult explain due to its vagueness.

It becomes different from what Parnini (2006:4) defines it as the “totality of groups and individuals in a country who show a regular concern for the social and political affairs in that country without fulfilling the function of political parties”. Closely related, in his writing, Hyden, (1995:3) defines civil society as “the political realm, specifically the means and processes through which citizens shape the character of political life in their country”.

All the definitions above portray civil society as a sphere made up of myriad individual groups and associations, but other scholars like Hyden bring in an aspect to show that civil society is a ‘political realm’ which becomes quite different from what other scholars or authors who believe that civil society is  rather public or social realm. This sparks further debates; hence the term has become a centre of both political and academic discourses all over the world. It becomes an elusive term because what Parnini explains above signify that civil society cares more about what government should do to suit the interests of citizens but does not play the role of political parties, yet to some scholars, political parties are part of civil society and if anything there are some civil society actors which play the same roles as political parties; a case in point is the role of mobilizing citizenry. This role is played by actors like church, community based organisations or even non-governmental organisations.

The working definition for this study is thatcivil society is an amalgamation of both human and associational activities that operate in a non-restrictive, open to everyone sphere without involvement of the state and market. It is a dome where people express their interests and ambitions but with pull factors based on common goal, values and customs.

3.2 The Evolution of Civil Society concept

The contemporary term ‘civil society’ has its origins in the early modern period in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, however, Kaldor (2003), points out that the term has its origin from Greek political philosophy. This is not far from what John and Comaroff (1999) noted that the term became prominent in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the period of modern European state formation, when it was used and explained by Ferguson, Kant, Hegel, Marx and Tocqueville. It is further argued that apart from being used by Gramsci, however, it did not thereafter dominate western political theory until recently (ibid). Kaldor (2003) further indicates that it has been narrowed in 20th century into forms of social contacts that are separate from both the state and market.

There is a commonality in which different authors above perceive the genesis of civil society. This implies that the concept itself was in existence though dormant before seventeen and eighteen centuries but civil society activism became prominent at a point in Europe when most societies sought to have a modern state. Thus modern state formation phenomenon in Europe was envisaged to have a civil society which would play an important supportive role in fostering democracy as part of the means of transforming societies from authoritarian rule. What should be known at this point is that civil society was brought in as one of the ingredients for democracy just as Hyden (1995) clarifies that civil society was a vital step towards the direction or realization of modern and democratic society.

The most recent usage the concept of civil society has been distinguished into three versions: the ‘activist’ version which emerged in 1970s and 1980s especially in Latin America and Eastern Europe which referred to the idea of a area outside political parties where individuals and groups aimed to democratize the state, to restructure power, rather than to capture authority in a traditional sense (Kaldor 2003). It is imperative to note that different versions were perceived differently by different scholars. In the first version (activist), the situation in Latin America and Eastern Europe compelled the need for civil society because there were military dictatorial regimes and totalitarian communist rule respectively. It seems the term was dubbed ‘activist’ because it was quiet hard for the common people to change governments in these regions, so what people did was to devise means of removing the government through formation of active groups independent of state which would change the relationship between state and societies (ibid)

The ‘neo-liberal’ version which Salamon and Anheier (1996) argue, is connected with views of ‘third sector’ or ‘non-profit’ sector that was developed in the United States where there are groups or associations that were not controlled by the state or even the market, but were important with potential of facilitating the operation of both. It is argued that this version was taken up by Western donors in the early 1990s because CSOs were needed to mitigate against the shocks associated with Structural Adjustment Programmes, to provide social safety net and foster good governance. It should be remembered that when SAPs were introduced by Bretton Woods institutions, governments were forced to cut on spending on public services, in so doing, civil society was to come in and bridge that gap as well as help in fostering good governance.

In comparison with the first or ‘activist’ version, it is observed that in the neo-liberal version came with the element of minimizing the role of state by checking the abuses and practices of the state just like what Kaldor had earlier alone argued, this version is linked with the ideas of social capital and trust of Robert Putman and Francis Fukuyama respectively. This differs from the first version of ‘activist’ in Latin America which mainly hinges on conscientization of the poor and breaking the culture of silence   the ideas of Gramsci and the inspiration of liberation theory. The overall difference between these two versions seems to be that neo-liberal version has an element of endorsing the western way of governance just as Salamon and Anheier had earlier indicated that it was developed in United States; while the activist version aims at emancipation and enhancement of human rights and justice but both have a commonality of being western-driven.

The above versions are in contrast with the third version of civil society ‘the post modern’ which asserts that the ‘activist’ and ‘neo-liberal’ versions are a Western discourse. Post-modern version criticizes activist and neo-liberal versions because there is exclusion of civil society actors like religious groupings and organisations which are based on kinship, they are sidelined and considered as traditional, that is why John and Comarrof (1999) clarify on this by arguing that there should not be ‘good westernized civil society and bad traditional un-civil society. Therefore, here, we should ask ourselves, is there bad and good civil society? The answer is no and yes, but in order to be rational, the definition should include all the categories mentioned in the activist version (social movements), neo-liberal version (third sector) and post-modern version (traditional and religious groups).

The western concept of civil society has largely strayed from its original meaning and role where NGOs are considered as the same as civil society. The terms ‘civil society’, ‘NGOs’ and the ‘non-profit sector’ have been regarded as the same by western donors since the early 1990s (Parnini, 2006:4). However, it can be argued that a full understanding of civil society has more than what NGOs does because civil society is a public sphere where non-state actors are mingled together. It has to include social movements that promote emancipation of poor and excluded, it has to include social organisations that protect and promote the interests of members, and it has to include nationalist and religious groups that foster empowerment of national and religious groups respectively. Therefore, it is rather a combination of all these actors that a coherent and robust collection can act together in order to bring transformation in society.

Nevertheless, Kane (2001) observes, civil society can be fostered through taking part in participatory activities ‘through grassroots organisations, through se


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