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Civil society in non-Western contexts: reflections on the ‘usefulness’ of a concept

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The paper considers the usefulness of the concept of civil society—both as an analytical construct and a policy tool—in non-Western contexts drawing on a selected review of literature on Africa from anthropology and development studies. Rejecting arguments that the concept has little meaning outside its Western origins, and critical of the sometimes crude export of the concept by Western donors to build ‘good governance’, the paper examines local meanings being created around the concept. Nevertheless, it acknowledges that such adaptations are part of an increasingly universal negotiation between citizens, states and markets. Current efforts to bring peace in Somalia are, in part, drawing on the language of civil society. Despite the apparent novelty of the rediscovered concept of civil society, it can also be invested with historical depth in the study of citizenship, exclusion and colonialism. The concept arguably therefore has both analytical value as well as inspirational power.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/29052/1/CSWP13_web.pdf

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