Chapter 5 : Changes in relationships between Civil Society and Government



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Chapter 5 : Changes in relationships between Civil Society and Government



Notes from Brazil
Civil Society and Citizenship in general – some points

[ Bob: As I understand this part, we need some overall theoretical introduction – however brief – that will open up the civil society question in general. The following paragraphs 1 – 8 are some of the elements that I think might be useful here: the variety of ways of thinking about civil society, active citizenship, local moral orders. I have not included the social capital part as I assume you will have picked this one up]



1. From where does the present day notion of civil society come? In part from the pre-medieval monasteries, the early scholastic centers, the guilds, merchant associations, leagues and schools of the medieval period, and on towards to the rights to association and the discussion clubs, literary and scientific societies that form the slow construction of the public space.
2. Civil society had its early nineteenth century outline sketched with collective values and civility1. A strong civil society-represented in those days by those who had land or professions, was a necessary counter-weight to the State. Civil society was seen as civilized society.
3. Civil society for Marx was something different again. The relation between society, community, State and civil society was a conflictive one and not one of checks and balances. The State was seen as a reflection of the violence that exists within civil society (civil society as bourgeois society) and the end of the State would be the re-absorption of political society within a transformed civil society. In the hands of Gramsci, reflecting on the strikes and factory occupations by workers committees in Turin between 1912 and 19202, civil society became the privileged place for the fight for political rights, for mobilization, for active education and the transformation of conditions. Time and time again throughout his prison reflections3, he returned to the theme of the organic capacity for organization, leadership and intellectual development, placed within a civil society of conflict over meaning; for hegemony over the matrix of ideological and cultural relations and the organizations and institutions involved in the transmission of dominant values.
4. In the middle of these two perspectives, borrowing elements from the one and the other, recognizing conflict but also noting the negotiated order of modern democracy is yet another notion of civil society 4. One that emphasizes the autonomous organization of society and of a public sphere that is independent of the State, political society and economic society. One that is created through self constitution and self mobilization, including family, associations, social movements and forms of public communication. It is institutionalized through laws - which allow association - and collective rights and customs.
5. The limits of the three versions are very different. In the first case the view of civility is dominant, as also the notion that some, the representatives of civil society, can and should speak for others. Knowledge and skills here trickle down under a general assumption of a lack of competence in the unknown other. In the third, the focus is on the intersection between system and life-world. As Habermas5 put it : “the base of civil society is composed of a network of associations that institutionalize problem solving discourse on questions of general interest within the framework of organized public spheres”. Such associations are the activists that force the issues onto the agenda, that support and socialize new competences. In the case of the second the limits are those of direct confrontation within a zero sum game; that is, with losers and winners. In some cases it a question of control over the State apparatus, in others it is of symbolic disconnection. Here empowerment is about alterity and the visible and present other. Skills are seen as collective; the implicit and tacit knowledge about organizing and change.
6. There are a wide variety of potential discussions on citizenship that can be used but one that is of interest for the decentralization/public administration debate is that of Camilla Stivers – who has used the active citizenship approach to looking at citizenship involvement in Agency management. Returning to Aristotle whose active citizen is one who, “exercising practical wisdom in the public interest, joins in rendering decisive judgment about some aspect of governance”6, Stivers shows how authoritative action, public interest focus, practical wisdom and community are possible within the relations in a moral order” 7.
8. Local moral orders can be seen in the context of civil society and government as emerging at the conflictive seam between Jurgen Habermas’s system and life world8 , within the turbulence of the attempts by the one to colonize the other. A local moral order is a form of negotiated and temporary truce which to use Anselm Strauss's discussion9 of organization as a negotiated order, moves forward as treaties, alliances and conflicts yet with an implicit recognition of the possibility of communicative action.
Civil Society and Citizenship in Latin America : the key question
9. The generally accepted renewed interest in Civil Society that has appeared over the last fifteen years has also been associated with the proposition that whilst civil society, in the broad sense covered by the three versions in paragraphs 3 – 5, has been around in the Anglo – North American – European context for some time, it is a relatively new phenomenon in Latin America. That is, that prior to the between citizen and state. Such spaces that are constructed within Agency Management or within Planning and Policy frames – including commissions and councils – can constitute, Stivers argues, a form of Polis.
7. If moral orders are understood as consisting of definitions in the manner in which social relations should be construed10, then these intermediary spaces can perhaps be considered in terms of a local moral order. That is, recognizing the wider contradictions of which they form a part, they nevertheless seek to establish a possible basis for debate and action. As such and as temporary organizational arrangements they can reflect Philip Selznick’s position on organizations and moral agency: “they can and do take account of multiple values; accept limits on the ends they may pursue and the means they may use; devise procedures for controlling conduct in the light of moral concerns. … they can, in short, be responsible participants various social movements that mark the struggle for democracy in the 1975 – 1985 period, there was very little effective space for wider social action.

10. Thus, to take an example from the European perspective, Philip Oxhorn 11 will argue that the mid twentieth century processes of controlled inclusion in Latin America have broken down and that the socio-economic and political changes of the last thirty years are being reflected in an increasingly associational climate leading to Western European types of civil societies. The difference however, he argues, is that as a counterpart to the authoritarian period, these newer arrangements are much more strongly marked by democratic processes. They are active rather than representative in form. For Oxhorn, civil society is: “a rich social fabric formed by a multiplicity of territorial and functionally based units. The strength of civil society is measured by the peaceful coexistence of these units and by their collective capacity simultaneously to resist subordination to the state and to demand inclusion into national political structures. ……….Strong civil societies are thus synonymous with a high level of institutionalized social pluralism12.


11. Leonardo Avritzer13 and many other Brazilian authors, will argue in a similar vein. For Avritzer, for example, the modernization period of Brazil’s 1950 – 1970s history was not characterized by any action by the democratic institutions to create an autonomous public or societal sphere (esfera societal autônoma ). On the contrary and throughout the alternative presence of populism and authoritarianism, it would be the State that would determine who would be the social actors and how they would be included, exchanging “social and civil citizenship for the role of members of de-politicized consumer society”14. For Avritzer, the arrival in the post-authoritarian period of a civil society in Brazil is associated with three factors: modern and democratic social actors; the recuperation by these actors of the idea of free association within the relation of state-society; the constitution of new legal, political and public structures that are capable of institutionalizing the socio-cultural concerns of civil society.
12. These numerous new social actors and their organizational forms have already been discussed in previous chapters of this book. But they include the urban and rural trades unions, urban forms of local association such as neighborhood groups, forms of professional association gathering the newer professional elites, the Catholic Church’s comunidades eclesiais de base, environmental movements, non-governmental organizations and many others.
13. In 1988, the IBGE’s annual sample survey showed some 12% of adults linked to some kind of trades union, 14% to community organizations and 3% to political parties. Whilst the results showed that those with higher levels of income are more likely to be involved in associations such as trades unions, the more detailed study by Luiz Cesar de Queiroz Ribeiro and Orlando Alves dos Santos Junior15 does point to the significant presence of community associations within the very low income and excluded groups.
14. In their review they point to other studies that show that some 65% of civil associations of all types in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro were formed between 1970 and 1986. This includes 90% of all community associations. In their own more detailed study they were able to identify some 273 associações de favela and 396 associações de moradores in the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, plus some 400 welfare and philanthropic organizations, nearly 2,500 churches and at least 50 activist NGOs, not forgetting 57 escolas de samba and many other forms of cultural association16.
15. On the more structural side, a large number of studies are now being carried out to examine citizen involvement in the various thematic councils set up by the 1988 constitution and the overall impression tends to follow that of the democratization process as a whole: ups and downs, but some progress as the different community based groupings learn how to negotiate and avoid attempts to trap them into Oxhorn’s “controlled inclusion”.
16. However, perhaps the most significant move within the structural/institutional arena has been the way in which participative or participatory budgeting (orçamento participativo) has been adopted in a wide range of municipal settings. Brian Wampler17 has recently carried out a study on participative budgeting for the Ford Foundation and estimates the number as being well over 100.

Participative Budgeting and Civil Society
[ Bob : as I don’t know how much we want to put in here about orçamento participativo I have leaned heavily on Brian’s excellent study which is part of his PhD ]
17. Even though participative budgeting began in Porto Alegre with the Workers Party government, the presence of a large number of highly active neighborhood associations was a key feature of the early success. Indeed some observers have commented that with such a degree of popular mobilization, there was little hope that the budget would be anything but participative. However it was not an immediate process:

“ during the first two years of their administration, the government experimented with different mechanisms to tackle the financial constraints, to provide citizens with a direct role in the activities of government, and to invert the social spending priorities of previous administration. …….. In 1989 and 1990, the first two years of participatory budgeting (PB), under a thousand citizens participated. The number of participants jumped to nearly 8,000 participants in 1992. After winning re-election in 1992, the program took on a life of its own with participation increasing to over 20,000 people per year. Participation grew as citizen realized that PB was now an important decision-making venue. PB has spread throughout Brazil. As of June 2000, it is estimated that nearly 100 municipalities and five states have implemented some sort of a PB program. There is wide variation in the success as some administrations only play lip service to the programs while other administrations are financially constrained so that they are unable to implement new public works”18

18. Wampler has argued a number of reasons for the engagement of civil society within the participatory budget process:

“Citizens have many incentives to participate in PB programs. First, participants enjoy increased access to public decision-making venues. Public meetings and decision-making processes reduce the likelihood that overt clientelistic means will be used to distribute goods, benefiting citizens who have not gained from clientelism. By holding public meetings, citizens may be empowered as the public nature of the meetings has the potential to encourage non-traditional actors to speak out. Empowerment is strengthened even further if citizens can draw a direct connection between their participation efforts and policy outcomes.

A second important incentive for citizens is gaining access to information. Informational meetings provide citizens with a broader understanding of government, governmental responsibility, policy and policy-making. Brazilian budgets and policy-making have long been “black boxes” in which inputs and outputs were unknown to all but a handful of government officials. PB programs provide a structure for citizens to gain the necessary information to develop better understandings of their political and administrative environments. In addition to budgetary information, citizens gain access to technical information such as zoning and land-use laws. The complex sets of rules involved in these issues are often beyond the reach of the average citizen. PB programs offer the opportunity for citizens to work with officials in the bureaucracy to resolve pressing legal or other technical problems.

The final incentive to participate is the direct relationship established in PB between participation and the quality of services provided. Citizens select public works so they directly shape their neighborhoods. PB participants approve technical plans, such as the installation of sewer systems or the constructions of new housing units as well as overseeing the actual implementation of the public works. In the city of Belo Horizonte, for example, all technical plans must be presented to neighborhood forums. After discussion and clarifications, sometimes requiring the plan to be redrawn, the neighborhood forum must approve the plan. This helps to ensure that contractors provide the services and goods for which they were contracted. It is widely believed that this improves the quality of services as it reduces the likelihood that contractors will try to cheat on their contacts”19



How general are the trends

19. Given the sheer size of Brazil and the fact that the events that are being discussed are still very recent, it is difficult to pick a solid position from which to look coldly at the overall picture of civil society relations with the State. Without doubt, researchers such as Alvricher and others have argued convincingly that some kind of civil society is very much a feature of the current Brazilian social scene and the data about associations would seem to back this up. At the same time Oxhorn’s controlled inclusion is still a preferred means of encounter for many parts of the elite. As a public sphere, the Brazilian Polis has still a long way to go, especially at the national level. However at the subnational level and for the many reasons that have been discussed during the previous chapters, there is evidence that the trend is more general.

20. One source of data comes from the files of the Public Management and Citizenship Program (Programa Gestão Pública e Cidadania) at the Fundação Getulio Vargas São Paulo20. Since 1996, its staff have been gathering information on innovation in sub-national governments in Brazil through the mechanism of an annual awards program. Recently a specific study was carried out to look at the patterns of civil society organization involvement in the innovations received.

[ Bob: I won’t go into detail about the Program as you already know this and we can later put in what is needed – the key here is the data ]

21. The data used was taken from the annual entrants over the four years from1996- 1999, totaling nearly 2,500 different programs, projects and activities from all over Brazil. Clearly the population is biased in that it is comprised of agencies from subnational jurisdictions that think in some way that what they are doing is innovative, but it is relatively extensive to the different states and the different types of municipalities that can be found. It could well be a leading edge rather than the top of the iceberg, but – in either case – it is sufficiently broad to be able to ask questions.

22. The first observation is that some kind of inter-organizational involvement or linkage was present in 80% of all the programs, projects and activities. In 20%, these were with other governmental agencies only, in 14% with other civil society organizations only and in 46% with both. Thus, out of the total population of programs submitted under the banner of “public management and citizenship”, 60% counted with some form of civil society engagement.

23. The number of these inter-organizational links was quite considerable. Taking as the basis all those programs with some form of alliance or joint working (80% of the total), in 46% of cases one or two other organizations were involved, in 24% three or four, in 15% five or six, in 9% between 7 – 9 and in 6% ten or more.

23. Using the more detailed information provided by the annual semi-finalists ( a smaller group of 100 programs each year chosen for all round merit) it was possible to build a map of the type of civil society organization present. This was done by using the terms that were provided by the programs, projects and activities themselves; seeking, in a field-grounded manner, to group them whenever this was possible. The result was thirty-nine different types of civil society organization, including the public involvement of business firms.

24. The categories that were derived are listed below:

International Cooperation Agency – bilateral

Multi-lateral Agency

Commercial Association

Class or Professional Association

Association of Local Markets or small shops

Association of Fishermen and Producers

Residents and Neighborhood Association

Association of Parents, Mothers or Family members

Small and Medium Firms Association

Association of people with impairments

User’s Associations

Industrial Association

Community and Cultural Center

Clubs with Civic Interests ( Rotary, Lions)

Commissions, Councils and Forums

Statutory Councils

Cooperatives

Private Business Firms

Charity and Social Welfare organizations

Private Schools

Business Foundations

Philanthropic Foundations

International Philanthropic Foundation

Private Hospitals

Center, Institute or Foundation for Research Studies

Social Movements

Action groups for Rights or Thematic Action

NGO for local service or popular mobilization

International NGO

Organization or Federation of Indigenous Peoples

Advocacy Organization

Catholic Church organization

Spiritism – Kardek church organization

Evangelical church organization

Protestant Church Organization

Political party

WorkersTrade Union

Business Sector Firms Union

Religious, Community, Non-profit and Private Universities21

25. Three blocks of organizational types stand out when looking at the frequency of occurrence in public sector - civil society working. The first block contains types of organizations that were mentioned in between 11% - 3 % of the cases and is responsible for 63% of all links:

Residents and Neighborhood Association 11%

Private Business Firms 11%

Commissions, Councils and Forums 9%

Catholic Church organization 6%

Class or Professional Association 5%

Statutory Councils 5%

Association of Producers and Fishermen 4%

NGO for local service or popular mobilization 4%

WorkersTrade Union 4%

Action groups for Rights or Thematic Action 3%

26. The second block contains types of organizations that were mentioned in 2% of cases and is responsible for 26% of all links:

International Cooperation Agency – bilateral

Multi-lateral Agency

Commercial Association

Association of Parents, Mothers or Family members

Community and Cultural Center

Clubs with Civic Interests ( Rotary, Lions)

Cooperatives

Charity and Social Welfare organizations

Business Foundations

Center, Institute or Foundation for Research Studies

Social Movements

Business Sector Firms Union

Religious, Community, Non-profit and Private Universities22

27. Finally, the third block is responsible for some 11% of cases and comprises a number of different types mentioned in 1% or less:

Association of Local Markets or small shops

Small and Medium Firms Association

Association of people with impairments

User’s Associations

Industrial Association

Private Schools

Philanthropic Foundations

International Philanthropic Foundation

Private Hospitals

International NGO

Organization or Federation of Indigenous Peoples

Advocacy Organization

Spiritism – Kardek church organization

Evangelical church organization

Protestant Church Organization

Political party



1 Adam Ferguson. An Essay on the History of Civil Society. Edinburgh, 1767.

2 Antonio Gramsci. Particularly important are Gramsci’s Pre-prison writings, for example in L’Ordine Nuevo. Bellamy (ed) Pre-Prison Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994

3 Antonio Gramsci Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Org. Hoare & Smith. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971

4 Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato. Civil Society and Political Theory. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press, 1992 John Keane. Civil Society: old images, new visions. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998 John Hall (org) Civil Society. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995

5 Jürgen Habermas. Between Facts and Norms. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press, 1996 p.367

6 Camilla Stivers. The Public Agency as Polis: active citizenship in the administrative state. Administration and Society. Vol 22,1,86-105, 1990.

7 Philip Selznick. The moral Commonwealth: social theory and the promise of community. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1992 p 240

8 Jurgen Habermas. A Theory of Comunnicative Action. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984

9 Anselm Strauss. The Hospital and its Negociated Order. IN: Friedson, (org) The

Hospital in Modern Society. New York: Free Press, 1963.



10 Robert Wuthnow. Meaning and Moral Order Berkeley: University of California Press,

1987


11 Philip Oxhorn. From controlled Inclusion to Coerced Marginalization: the struggle for civil society in Latin America. In John Hall (org) 1995 op cit

12 Oxhorn op cit p 252

13 Leonardo Avritzer. Sociedade Civil e Democratização. Belo Horizonte: Editora Del Rey, 1994

14 Avritzer, op cit, p.282

15 Luiz Cesar de Queiroz Ribeiro e Orlando Alves dos Santos Junior Associativismo e participação popular: tendências da organização popular no Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: IPPUR-FASE, Observatório de Políticas Urbanas e Gestão Municipal, 1996

16 Queiroz Ribeiro and Santos Junior, op cit.

17 Brian Wampler. A Guide to Participatory Budgeting. University of Texas – Austin. Mmeo. 2000

18 Bryan Wampler. Op cit

19 Brian Wampler, op.cit

20 See: Peter Spink. The rights based approach to public administration. The rights approach to local public management : experiences from Brazil. Revista de administração de Empresas, 40, 3, 45-65, 2000

21 Public Universities were included in the public sector organizations listing where they were responsible for 7% or the mentions in this sector

22 Public Universities were included in the public sector organizations listing where they were responsible for 7% or the mentions in this sector


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