ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Civil Society Activism

This is a comment with regard to the “Perspectives on Civil Society” by Neera Chandhoke (“Can Civil Society Reorder Priorities in India?”) and Mihir Shah (“Civil Society and Indian Demo­cracy: Possibilities of Social Transformation”) (both in EPW, 22 February 2014). It appears that they have two distinct stances on civil society. While Neera Chandhoke dismisses civil society for not having a “big idea” and for playing a compensatory role in the context of globalised capitalism, Mihir Shah is quite confident of civil society playing its role effectively and then passing the baton to the people with “cascading redundancy”.

With reference to the point made by Neera Chandhoke, it appears that the major impetus to civil society movements in the contemporary world came with the falling apart of the “big idea” of Soviet socialism in 1989. Eastern Europeans were the first ones to invoke civil society when the velvet revolutions happened. Civil society came to prominence precisely to supplant the big idea of revolution. While Neera Chandhoke calls the present world a “post-revolutionary world”, she also says that what is left by civil society is addressed by Maoist movement. Is she saying that Maoist revolution is possible and can bring back the “big idea” of revolution in India which the civil society cannot?

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