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A short note on State Vs. Civil Society

Civil society is a civil association. Here, society or community is viewed as a service organization which enjoys autonomy, both from the polity and the economic. In its extreme from, the theory of civil society is becoming a non-state or even an anti-state variety of liberalism. The role of civil society is becoming important in the wake of participatory democratic theory. Some groups in the civil society are demanding increasing public access to justice and greater transparency in decisions taken by the various organs of government. Here, the issues of the rule of law and good governance entailing citizens’ right to information also become important.

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All this has brought the community and civil society to the center stage displacing the state in some conventional spheres of its activity. Political Theory in the era of globalization will have to address itself to the phenomenon of autonomous market, shrinking state and assertive civil society. Increasing public interest Litigation (PIL) has driven various organs of government to the wall in many respects.

For example, Narmada Bachao Andolan being spearheaded by Medha Patekar and Arundhati Roy, Chipko Movement of Sunder Lal Bahuguna, the people’s Union for civil Liberties, Lok Satta, Association for Democratic Reform and Transparency International are all directed at keeping the various organs of government in reasonable limits. NGOs are emerging as a countervailing power vis-à-vis the state. The seriousness of the problem of global warming, green house gases, and ozone hole are today matters of concern of all government – democratic and authoritarian.

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The indiscriminate deforestation and increasing noise and air pollution has brought the basic question of relation between man and nature, the limits to the industrialization and economic growth to the fore. Political theory cannot avoid addressing itself adequately to all these questions. No state today can ignore or underplay the question of gender justice, the demands for empowerment of women, the rights of the child and the unborn and the issues of positive discrimination.

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