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This book is the first of its kind to offer an understanding, analysis, and prediction of the state of civil society in Bangladesh in relation to development and democracy. It is a research attempt to reveal the paradox found in developing countries like Bangladesh where there are numerous and active civil society organizations (CSOs) that have had almost no influence in consolidating democracy. This book, however, also qualifies the normative assumption on the positive relationship between civil society and democracy asserted by the mainstream neo-Tocquevillean School that has a profound influence on donor policies. Readers are introduced to civil society in Bangladesh from a broad perspective. Rather than confining the analysis to NGOs, chapters explore the origin, nature, and function of both modern and conventional CSOs, which helps to provide a more authentic understanding of the genuine state of civil society in relation to other actors in the political system. Combining survey data analyses and empirical observations with carefully chosen case studies, the book reveals that CSOs participate very actively in social services. This research also reveals that these highly active CSOs in the field of social development lack the necessary attributes for ensuring participation, proper interest articulation and monitoring of the state. Through systematic analysis, the book shows that political structures—and for Bangladesh, particularly political parties—along with vertical social relationships such as clientelism, patronage, nepotism, and corruption have contributed to a non-vigilant civil society in Bangladesh, although it often is spoken of in different terms. This book is highly recommended for researchers, students, and development practitioners interested in South Asia as well as in understanding the potentials and limitations of civil society in relation to development and democracy.

Farhat Tasnim's book is a comprehensive treatment of civil society in Bangladesh. It will serve as a useful resource for future researchers in this field for a long time to come.

Harry Blair, Yale University, USA

Farhat Tasnim provides in this book a new perspective on one of the essential cases of civil society study, Bangladesh. Her penetrating analysis of the relationship of civil society organizations and democracy in Bangladesh should attract a wide readership. This is an important book not only for students of Bangladesh, but for scholars and practitioners interested in the relationship of civil society organizations and democracy.

Robert J. Pekkanen, University of Washington, USA

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
This chapter provides the background to this research on civil society in Bangladesh, along with its core arguments, objectives, and methodology. The research addresses the paradox found in the nature and function of the civil society in Bangladesh. The book concentrates on exploring the answers to the core question, “despite its vibrant disposition, why the civil society is hardly vigilant, in terms of political participation and democracy?” This chapter sets the scene. Both secondary and primary data were used for this research and the principal methods that were adopted were social survey, case study, and newspaper analysis. The study reveals that though the civil society in Bangladesh gained significant success in social development, in case of political advocacy, the civil society itself has been influenced by the powerful social political structures that have weakened its potentials to generate democratic norms among the citizens, articulate interests, and watch on government actions. This chapter also provides a brief idea about the civil society in Bangladesh and introduces the rest of the book to the readers.
Farhat Tasnim

Chapter 2. Conceptual Discourse

Abstract
This chapter discusses in detail and examines the concept of civil society from its theoretical perspective. The objective of this chapter is to set the conceptual discourse for the research. The two prominent schools, The Neo-Tocquevillean School and the Neo-Gramscian School, in the study of civil society have been brought under consideration for studying developing countries in Asia. The relationship between civil society and the politics, specifically in connection to democracy and development has been focused upon. Moreover, different models for studying the civil society in Bangladesh have been visited and modified leading to a mixed model that is best for the present study. Finally, the key concepts used in this book have been defined and explained.
Farhat Tasnim

Chapter 3. Civil Society in Comparative Perspective

Abstract
This chapter explores the civil society from a comparative perspective in search for the factors and structures that influences its nature, function, and power. With the understanding of the civil society in Bangladesh, this chapter compares three more civil societies active in the developing nations in Asia. Civil societies of India, Pakistan, and the Philippines have been briefly analyzed considering the diversity in the political environment and democratic nature of each country and then have been compared with the Bangladeshi situation. With the analysis and comparison of the four civil societies, it has become relatively easy to infer that the size as well as the influence and power of the civil society are shaped according to the nature, strength, and strategy of the political structures of the political system. Because of strict laws and unwilling political regimes, though India has a stable democracy, civil society here is not totally autonomous, rather uncivil elements are also active here. On the other hand, due to weak political structures and illiberal democracy, the civil society in Pakistan also remains weak despite their vigilant acts at time of national crisis. While the civil society in the Philippines is more involved in politics and in influencing the government decisions to some extent, they are not strong enough to change the elite oligarchic power structure of the country rather often is entangled within it.
Farhat Tasnim

Chapter 4. Civil Society and Political Structures in Bangladesh

Abstract
This chapter discusses in detail about the vibrant and the vigilant nature of the civil society in Bangladesh. Revealing the civil society’s development and its interaction with other political structures in the political system and identifying the most influencing structure in relation to civil society’s participatory performance are the prime objective of this chapter. The impacts of culture, registration system, donor policy, and the flow of foreign funds have been discussed to understand the vibrant attributes. The political structures like elites, patron–client relations, political parties, as well as the internal features and divisions found within civil society organizations and the civil society networks have been discussed in connection to the vigilant attribute of the civil society. Special attention has been given to the political parties to understand how these structures develop their social support and use the civil society as a mean to achieve their political ends. The chapter ultimately sorts out the political structures that are mostly responsible in shaping the civil society, its strength, network, and its capacity to influence politics and democracy.
Farhat Tasnim

Chapter 5. How Vigilant Is the Vibrant Civil Society?

Abstract
This chapter, based on empirical survey data, investigates the nature and trends of civil society, focusing on their resources, behaviors, relations, nature of activities, etc. The survey data reveal rich involvement of civil society in grass-roots actions while indicating their low participation in politics and state related affairs. This means that civil society organizations are vibrant in grass-roots social services. However, they lack the necessary participatory attributes for proper interest articulation and monitoring of the state, resulting in a less vigilant civil society. Data based analysis accelerates the mainstream argument of the book that civil society in Bangladesh may be noteworthy for its contributions to the development and social welfare but it can hardly contribute to democracy.
Farhat Tasnim

Chapter 6. Politicized Civil Society

Abstract
The survey data analysis in chapter five indicated that, though we may term the civil society in Bangladesh vibrant, it may hardly be considered as vigilant. The aim of this chapter is to point out the reasons for a non-vigilant rather a politicized civil society. This chapter uses three types of method and data, that is, survey analysis, content analysis, and case studies to specify the nature of politicization and co-optation by political parties. In a typical scenario in other countries, civil society can provide a counterbalance or even monitor the state both at the national and local levels. However, in Bangladesh, often CSOs have compromised their autonomy and politicized themselves to certain political parties or political blocs. In such a vulnerable position, civil society can hardly play its expected role to ensure good governance and strengthen democracy.
Farhat Tasnim

Chapter 7. Conclusions

Abstract
This chapter first answers the research question, “why the civil society in Bangladesh can hardly contribute in democratic consolidation” based on the findings in the previous chapters, then moves on to the discussion on implications of the study in liberal democratic theory, donor policies, and democracy in Bangladesh. The core thesis of the book is that, civil society in Bangladesh may be termed vibrant from its activities and success in social development, but it can hardly be termed vigilant because of its low participatory nature and politicized and divided attributes. This also qualifies the prevailing assumption of the liberal democratic model often incorporated in donor policies, which emphasizes the positive and the direct relation between civil society and democracy. Unless political consensus grows among the political actors to accept politics as a game, democratic consolidation is hardly possible with the efforts of a few civil society organizations. This also requires concomitant institutionalization of political structures and economic development. Moreover, this chapter provides a brief update about the nature of civil society activities and their style of advocacy observed recently. The update findings only strengthen the inferences, thesis, and conclusion of this study.
Farhat Tasnim
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