State and Civil Society

Law can enable civil society in four ways. It should protect free association and rights of democratic participation; allow for the formalization of organizations in law; create legitimacy through a framework for proper accountability; and provide for privileges or incentives for organizations meeting governmental priorities. Such benefits mainly relate to tax breaks and preferential access to public sector contracts.

Any survey of national laws and practices suggests that in general the state does not fulfill these four functions adequately, but rather tends toward control and manipulation.

From the point of view of this rather esoteric rant, it is perhaps most useful to turn the point around and ask: ‘Where the state is not enabling civil society, what is local civil society infrastructure doing to encourage it to do so?’

Will this raise any eye brows?


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