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Publication Details

Reference
Blaauw, Lesley (2003) A Developed Regional Civil Society in Southern Africa? Reflections and Prospects. CCS Grant Report : 1-38.

Summary
Since 1990, civil society actors have become increasingly important in providing guidance on issues of a transnational nature. Developmental activists, gender advocates, environmentalists, human rights watchdogs, groups of indigenous people and even drug syndicates, are helping to define interests that were once considered the exclusive domain of the state. Renewed interest in, and concern for civil society is often attributed to the process of globalisation.

However, since the concept of globalisation defies precise definition, it is necessary to set boundaries when dealing with this concept. Two conceptions of globalisation are offered here. Firstly, globalisation is defined as the economic, cultural, political and technological processes which generate a multiplicity of linkages and interconnections between states and societies which make up the modern world system (Held and McGrew, 1993) Of concern here is the multiplicity of linkages and interconnections between societies that have contributed to expanding the political and social space in which civil society actors could develop (Cox,1999).

These independent organisations of protest grew as a result of the political space that opened up as a result of globalisation. In this context, globalisation entails ‘deterritorialisation’-a reconfiguration of social space. According to Jan Aardt Scholte:

In a territorial world, people normally have most of their interactions and affiliations with others who share the same territorial space. The novelty of globalisation allows for a proliferation of social connections that are at least partly- and often quite substantially detached from a territorial logic (2000:47).

This allows for the expansion of political and social space in which civil society could develop. The economic and social choices that globalisation entails for national governments also have enormous implications for civil society organisations and formations. They could potentially serve as a critical rallying point in strengthening regional civil society networks since they force these organisations to make choices. Yet Peter Vale (Centre for Southern African Studies, University of the Western Cape) expresses pessimism about the ability of civil society to establish these types of regional linkages, ostensibly because: “there is, in the region, not a strong tradition of volunteerism…”. He does, however, see opportunities for civil society to: “think outside of the statist frame… by organising around issues such as water.”2

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