Civil Society Revisited: Possibilities for increasing community collaboration in a competitive world
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Civil society holds a special place in the heart of political science. This space between the 'harsh acquisitive world'1 of business and the 'faceless bureaucracy' of the state has been much studied, with particular attention being paid to those community groups that have emerged to challenge or supplement government. Some theories have portrayed such groups as a necessary buffer between the state and the public, while pluralism has them competing for policy influence. More recently, the diverse proliferation of rising civil society action has been variously taken as evidence of post-industrialism, post-modernism, or reflexive modernisation. The rise of neoliberal discourses in public policy has had a twofold effect. First, it has shifted some responsibilities from the state to non-government organisations. Second, it has paradoxically encouraged both new competition and new alliances between different parts of the community. So what really is, or could be, the role of community groups within civil society? This paper addresses this question by using the recent rise of collaborative initiatives around Australia as examples. It argues that many groups that have traditionally been on opposite sides of issues may now have an opportunity to construct a shared vision of what they want to achieve. In so doing they might actually increase their effectiveness in bringing their visions to fruition.
APSA Conference - Refereed papers
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