Civil Society and Democratization


The following essay is concerned is with the examination of civil society and democratization. The main policy of many governments is to transform nations into liberal democratic zones. A strong civil society movement is a key element as far as democracy is concerned. United Society for instance has promoted democracy particularly in the Middle East countries by strengthening the civil societies. Civil society has been a vital element of bringing about changes in politics. A civil society which is vibrant often helps to create a lasting development and also provides conducive environment whereby the people can air their needs.However,the is important to first understand what the civil society as well as democratization entails before discussing its relations and interaction in the society in promoting democratization.

Definitions of civil society and democratization

Democratization can be defined as process whereby people have the freedom of choosing their own leaders and also contribute to the public policy. It is an instrument which helps to enhance the development by tackling the concerns of well being of people as well as social cohesion. Democratization process can be traced back in the 1980s during when many countries were undergoing through political as well as economical changes. During this period, the economies of most countries opened and the countries changed from dictatorial regimes to democratic ones.

On the other hand, civil society have many definitions by many people.Caro (17l) views civil society as a concept whereby individuals comes together so as to tackle a common issue which has an impact to the whole society and states that there are institutions which are involved in the whole process i.e. the government, political parties as well as the business community.

Diamond (19) defines civil society as a self organized group which is independent from the government and is governed under set rules and it’s concerned with the wellbeing of the citizens. Diamond thus holds the view that civil society encompasses both formal as well as informal organizations which engages in a variety of activities so as to attain such goals as development, education among others.

According to (Diamond 17), civil society can be summarized as the societal sector which is active in politics and which is independent from the government as well as the political parties encompassing large number of people in protesting publicly.

According to Silliman and Garner Noble(9), civil society is a concept which does not involve the households,businesses,political parties as well as the groups that seeks top have authority over state by armed forces.

Serrano (13) understands the concept of civil society as an interaction between the government and private sphere of the society.

Rodman (21) defines civil society as a medium which allows the political parties that opposes the government of the day to express and discuss their interests.

The non governmental organizations have been deemed to be equivalent to the civil society as a result of them gaining popularity in the recent needs. However, the concept of civil society can be described as a political; environment which is formed by non governmental organizations,charities,community foundations,clubs,policy institutions, cultural groups, women’s groups among other voluntary associations(Elliot 16-24).

Civil society relations and interaction in the society in promoting democratization

The objective of civil society

The main objective of civil society is to enhance democracy in the society and not necessarily to change the government. The non governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been the most influential agents of the modern politics. Today however, the non governmental organizations have developed steadily in the last few years. The globalization in the 20th century has made people to value the NGOs and the role they play in enhancing democracy. The NGOs have expanded and are adept and taking the charge of dealing with humanitarian issues. They have also embarked on development issues and they are offering aid for such purposes. Both NGOs and CSOs are not involved in initiating democracy but instead they are means upon which democracy is consolidated and maintained.

Relevance of civil society

Civil society thus enables people to participate in exercising their democracy and this is important as it helps to sharpen their political skills. Civil society also enables the citizens’ rights to be safeguarded and also helps to address the inequalities that exist in the society.

Civil society helps to create a vigorous public disclosure i.e. civil society helps to create a political system whereby the citizens are made aware on what is happening in the political arena over time. Civil society thus enables people to become aware that the state usually does not reveal truth and therefore the civil society have brought into light certain issues which could not have been disclosed by the political class for their own interests. The civil society also ensures that the government functions within its accorded powers without any excesses. In order to ensure that the government functions is an efficient manner, the civil society monitors its operations and ensures that funds are used in the manner in which they are intended for. Civil society acts as a means of providing citizens with information concerning the manner in which the state affairs are run. For instance, the Transparency International which is a civil society is concerned with fighting against corruption in many countries across the globe (McIlwaine 662). Civil society thus enhances transparency and democracy in that it puts pressure for the government to be open as far as the utilization of resources is concerned. The civil society thus awakens people by raising concerns about corruption in the government.

Civil society enables people to work together so as to address the common challenges (Paturyan 65-78). Civil society is important as it helps to enhance the aspects that are characterized by a democratic life i.e. it enables the government to have an opposition that checks the operations of government. Civil society has thus created an environment whereby everyone has the ability to raise his or her own views. Democracy cannot be realized in a situation whereby the opposing views are not respected.

Civil society also plays an important role with regards to monitoring elections of different countries i.e. it ensures that the elections are held in a fair and transparent manner. It mobilizes its stakeholders so as to monitor the polling stations and this in turn helps to promote democracy (Alvares 13).

Civil society also helps to create legitimacy. This arises when people acknowledge that there is an authority which has the role of governing them and so they are bound to act in accordance to the directives of that authority. Once they acknowledge the above, the legitimate governance in turn becomes more productive as compared with the illegitimate one and this enhances the respect which people accords to the global governance. Civil society thus provides a means through which people can express their discontents and also demand for change once the governance mode tends to become illegitimate (Elliot 16-24).


The civil society organization and the non governmental organization have been working to enhance democracy as well as democratic states. The civil society has been in the forefront in creating participation as well as transparency. It has also enhanced accountability as well as safeguarding the rights of the citizens (Ndegwa 13). Civil society has enabled governments to hold democratic elections implying that people have been given freedom to choose leaders of their choice.

The civil society creates awareness as well as citizenry that are well informed and this enables citizens to make good voting decisions, become involved in the politics as well as holding the state accountable. Both the political as well as the non-political groups in the civil society are important as far as democracy is concerned due to the fact that they creates a trust as well as shared values that helps to create harmony in the society.

In an effort to enhance democracy in the society, civil society have been faced with several criticisms for instance civil society have been deemed to gain an outstanding amount of power with regards to politics and the accusations that have been made are that no one has appointed or elected them. Other critisicms are that the civil society have been acting for its own benefits as they are being driven by the global elites rather that carrying out its roles for the well being of the citizens. It is therefore a key role of the civil society to promote democracy through such means as controlling state powers among others.

Works Cited

Alvares, Philip. Civil Society in Modern Democracies: Definition, Impact on Democracy and Critical Assessment. GRIN: Verlag, 2009.

Carroll, John. It’s time for uncivil society to act. Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2000.

Diamond, Larry. Rethinking civil society: Toward democratic Consolidation. Baltimore: JHU Press, 1994.

Elliot, Carolyn. Civil Society and Democracy: A Reader. London: Oxford University Press, 2006.

McIlwaine, Cathy. Contesting civil society: reflections from El Salvador. Third World Quarterly, 19, 651–72, 1998.

Ndegwa, Stephen. The two faces of civil society: NGOs and politics in Africa. West Hartford: Kumarian Press, 1996.

Paturyan, Yevgenya. Civil society and democracy: the country level interrelations And the individual level impact. Bremen: Jacobs University Bremen, 2009.

Rodan, Gary.Theorising political opposition in East and Southeast Asia. London: Routledge. 1995.

Serrano, Andre’s. Andrés Serrano, works 1983-1993: Institute of Contemporary Art. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1994.

Sliman, Sidney & Noble, Lela. Organizing for Democarcy: NGOs, Civil society, And the Philippine State. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. 1998.