Market Reforms and the Emergence of Civil Society in Post-Mao China
Any inquiry into the emergence of "civil society" in post-Mao China is bedevilled both by ambiguity o f the term "civil society" itself and the complexity of the historical process it is used to describe. This problem extends far beyond the Chinese case, since the idea of "civil society" has been embraced by a broad spectrum of ideological persuasions and used to analyse a wide variety of countries in what used to be called the First, Second and Third Worlds. In the United Kingdom, for example, theorists of the right and left have argued for the crucial importance of "civil society" as a force for protecting social cohesion against the ravages of market forces or providing the organisational basis for an alternative form of democratic governance to the traditional bureaucratic state. In Central and Eastern Europe, it was the experience of political struggle against communist regimes which gave "civil society" the enhanced currency it has enjoyed over the past decade and a half, particularly the experience of Solidarity in Poland. In the developing world, many countries have been undergoing programmes of economic liberalisation which has led to discussion about the interrelationships between (spreading) markets, (retreating) states and (emerging) civil society and their implications for the "Third Wave" of democratisation in the region. These discussions can help to throw light on the Chinese case. As a communist country undergoing social changes and political stresses, there is a clear resonance with Eastern European experience. As a developing country undergoing radical economic liberalisation and a redefinition of the character and role of the state, there is shared experience with other developing countries. Given the roots of the idea of "civil society" in Western experience, however, its utility in explaining processes elsewhere has proven patchy. China's distinctive historical trajectory and social character should prompt caution about the extent to which the concept can help us to understand contemporary processes of socio-political change there.
CitationWhite, G. (1994) Market Reforms and the Emergence of Civil Society in Post-Mao China. IDS Working Paper, 6. Brighton: IDS.
Is part of seriesIDS working papers;6
Library catalogue entryhttp://bldscat.ids.ac.uk/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=110171
Rights holderInstitute of Development Studies
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