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The Relative Autonomies of State and Civil Society

by: Chua Beng Huat

Discusses the dynamics of State-Society relations in Singapore Difference between civil and civic society
semantics and politics

Concept of Civil Society History of Civil Society in Singapore

development of CS constraints to CS

Civil Society
Unit of Analysis: Singapore
1991, PAP Government Political climate
greater strides to bridge gap between state and the younger electorate
Shared Values (responsibilities to nation, community and family) Various avenues of participation (Feedback Unit, NonConstituency Member of Parliament...etc.) Civic society vis-a-vis Civil Society

Civic Society vis-a-vis Civil Society

Civic Society: emphasis on civic responsibilities Civil Society: implied emphasis on rights of citizenship Sing. Gov't. emphasis on Civic rather than civil society coincides with 5 elements of shared value of Singapore Rights balanced with duty

Civil Society
Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson 18th c.
contrasted to natural condition of human society (Hobbesian state of nature)

Ernest Gellner
originally construed as interest in history of ideas Society (as a sphere) is distinct from State (brought about by) commercial class idependent of the state mediated state and individual/group interests

Civil Society
Two conceptions of CS
First conception (de Toqueville)
check on state power
competitive political parties independent judiciary free press freedom of association, assembly and petition

Second Conception (Gramsci, Althusser)

State =Coercion + Ideology partner on the state in governance
propagate, reproduce and reinforce ideological hegemony of state Ideological hegemony (Gramsci)- "condition of governance in which a concensus of values, viewpoints and/or worldview holds between governing and governed"

Civil Society
Civil Society in Singapore
Arrangements between Sing. Gov't and CS fit Gramscian concept.
Partner in governance manage discontent

Two unequal halves

State partner independent organizations

Civil Society
Internal Security Act
Min Home Affairs can detain those who are perceived to be threats to social stability

Societies Act
Registrar of Societies requires groups of 10 or more persons to register prohibition on political activity; limited to declared constituencies

Concepts to take note of

Social Capital (Putnam): networks, norms,
and trust that enable participants achieve same goals
Bonding Social Capital: same social circle/class/religion/race Bridging Social Capital: cuts across narrow groupings

Relative Autonomy (Poulantzas): State is not totally influenced by superstructure