Some Notes On Citizenship, Civil Society And Social Movements

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Warring over citizenship

Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937 Ingrid Bouws

Over the past two decades, notions of citizenship and civil society have come to occupy a prominent place in Latin American political discourse. All kinds of activities have been attributed to civil society, including preventing a military solution to the Chiapas conflict in 1994. We also hear a great deal about “organized civil society,” “social movements of civil society” and “global civil society,” terms that have entered everyday political discourse and become incorporated into common sense, though this does not mean that everyone understands the same message when using these terms. Quite to the contrary, incorporation into common language may well be facilitated by a lack of specificity. Such fluidity suggests, above all, that citizenship and civil society are contested categories subject to “wars of interpretation” (Slater, 1998:385). This approach to such questions implies admitting that we cannot know exactly what citizenship and civil society “are” and recognizing that they are notions forged through political discourse and practice.

There is no such thing as society, there are individual men and women. — Margaret Thatcher, 19931

In this essay, I will outline some of the pathways the notion of citizenship has taken and how it has been reconfigured over the course of time. Taking Europe and Latin America as our main references, this discussion will show that what has been considered the foundation of citizenship has been conceptualized and practiced in distinct ways at different times and in different places. It will also discern how citizenship and civil society are mutually implicated social constructs. I will argue that in a first moment, civil rights were considered the primary foundation of citizenship and of the autonomous participation of the citizen in society. However, the conflicts generated by the social structure of 19th-century capitalist society contributed to the consolidation of social rights as a new basis for citizenship. In Latin America, in contrast, the incorporation of the population followed an itinerary distinct from that of Europe, which reveals specific forms of inclusion and exclusion. Finally, societal and economic changes in recent decades have given rise to new imageries of citizenship, which often center on consumer sovereignty as its vital element, a fact that has important implications for what we call civil society. Taking the example of Brazil, I will show that such views are not uncontested, but that they are challenged by a political imagery premised on the idea that citizenship itself can be a strategy employed in the search for a more inclusive and civil society. This theme is certainly ample, and I do not pretend to examine it exhaustively, but only to offer some food for thought. As noted, I consider citizenship and civil society to be interrelated notions and thus seek to put a certain distance between my perspective and views of civil society currently in vogue, which tend to define it as a space located somewhere beyond the market and the state. Instead, I seek to highlight the ways in which the market, the state and civil society all intersect in an effort to construct something that we might call a “political economy of citizenship.”

The citizen comes on stage
The notion of citizenship has roots in the ancient Greek polis, the Roman Empire and the medieval European city. Modern notions of citizenship and civil society, however, were forged in the context of the religious wars in Europe and the formation of constitutional nation-states, on the one hand, and the transition to capitalism and the transformation of estate into contractual societies, on the other. Citizenship came to signify a condition of liberty, while the rights that underpinned this condition were known as “civil” rights: that is, the right to hold property and to enter into contracts, the freedom of the individual and the right to justice. With the English Revolution of 1688, freedom of speech, freedom of consciousness and freedom of religion were included.

More than a century later, rights such as these were codified in the constitutions drafted in the aftermath of bourgeois revolutions on the continent. The right to acquire and own property was considered basic to the emerging order. Property, in fact, would become the very foundation of autonomous participation in the self-regulated contractual society imagined by Enlightenment thought. It should be noted, however, that although the right to own property was considered fundamental, the notion of civil citizenship went beyond the right to hold economic property as individuals considered owners of their “personhood” protected by individual guarantees. Although in principle civil citizenship was extended to all citizens, the fact that freedom was basically anchored in property meant that political citizenship was limited to just a small group of propertied, educated males,2 while the “common people” were excluded, as were women, because they were considered to be “minors” for life.3

The appearance in early modernity of the concept of civil society went hand-inhand with the formation of civil rights and was also marked by the philosophical and cultural climate of the epoch. Civil society was thought of as the realm of private relations, including economic ones. It was conceived of as a space for the conformation of a “natural order” in which private vice would be transformed into public virtue. Civil society thus became anchored in property rights and market exchanges among sovereign agents freed from the regulations and interventions of the monarch in the context of the constitutional state: the expression of the “original contract.”

There is no need here to review the debates on the relation between the state or political society and civil society during early modernity.4 What should be noted is the differentiation between these spheres and the way in which civil society was conceived of as an entity both rooted in and made up of mercantile relations. We also know, somewhat in contrast to liberal thought, that the republican tradition would emphasize the role of civil associations in containing the tendencies toward social dissolution generated by competition among individuals. It emphasized the importance of their permanent participation in the management of the public cause in order to reconcile particular interests with the common good. It was Hegel who sought to “synthesize” these two positions: instead of viewing civil society as the locus of the constitution of a natural order, Hegel saw it as a space of disorder and dissolution and, suspecting that the collision between private interests and the disorganization of civil society might infiltrate the state, he proposed a sort of corporatist reintegration or modernization of the estate system in order to achieve the Aufhebung of civil society in the state: the incarnation of “virtue.” Marx, in contrast, criticized such ideas, arguing that it would be illusory to overcome the class divisions of capitalism through a return to pre-capitalist forms of estate organization. Rather than viewing the state as the locus for overcoming the contradictions of civil society, Marx considered it the very expression of those contradictions. The solution, therefore, was a revolutionary transformation that would bring about the abolishment of capitalism and thus make possible the re-absorption of the state by civil society.5

In sum, in early western modernity the formation of civil society was linked to a binary view of “society vs. the state” forged in the struggles of the nascent bourgeoisie against privileges and Absolutism.6 Mistrust of the state was reflected in liberal precepts that describe it as a “night-watch,” while conceiving of civil society as an entity opposed to the state, and made up of formally equal and autonomous individuals as the exclusive repositories of rights. At the same time, in the context of the transition from an estate to a contractual society,7 property was regarded as the basis of citizenship and the foundation for autonomous participation in the management of the res publica. The realm of “material life” was thus considered a constitutive element of civil society.
Later, Marx coined the famous phrase according to which the anatomy of civil society should be sought in political economy, which, we should note, in no way meant that it could be reduced to the economy. It was exactly this reflection on political economy that made it possible to discern that civil society did not tend towards the construction of a natural order but rather towards contradictions and the division of society into classes pitted against each other. This led Hegel to his proposals on the “universality” of the state and Marx to his thesis concerning its extinction.

Citizenship’s shifting foundations
The Manichean views of the relation between the “night-watch state” and civil society of liberal thinkers or Marxist analyses of the symbiosis between bourgeois civil society and the state reflected quite well the reality of Western Europe during the first three quarters of the 19th century. There is no need to evaluate here the rights and wrongs of Marxist theorizing or its philosophy of history in order to perceive that in the course of the 19th century struggles and processes of change and accommodation evolved that led to a significant transformation of the organization of the economy as well as of the relations between the state and civil society. While in the economy a transition from competitive toward “organized” capitalism began, the relations between the state and civil society showed an increasing interpenetration and a broadening of state functions. Up to that time, the state had basically been a machinery of repression towards the interior and of war towards the exterior. Meanwhile, bourgeois civil society was replaced by mass society, a transformation whose beginnings are generally situated around 1870. The aftermath of the French-German War saw the defeat of the Paris Commune (1871), the last attempt at revolutionary insurrection in Western Europe, while 1873 was the year of the first genuine world crisis. The notion of “imperialism” came to denote the new scramble for overseas dominion. Those events marked the transition to a new “phase” of development of western European countries.

It was under such changing conditions that citizenship acquired new dimensions as a result of the extension of political rights and the gradual introduction of certain social rights as well. The right of the male population to vote was conquered in France in 1848. In 1871, the new German Empire granted this right for the election of the Lower Chamber of the national parliament. In Great Britain, a succession of reforms between 1832 and 1884 enfranchised the majority of the male population and, in 1918, the franchise was universalized to the entire male population while at the same time part of the female population was granted the right to vote, one that would be extended to all adult women in 1929 (Hobsbawm, 1987:85).

As Marshall (1950) suggests, social rights developed as a mechanism to counter the disintegrative tendencies of capitalism signaled by Hegel and Marx. He describes how in the early years of English capitalism forms of social protection centered in local communities or trade associations were dismantled. The forms of wage regulation that had emerged in the 16th century were modified and gradually abandoned. With the introduction of the New Poor Law in 1834, all interference in the free play of market forces was condemned in the name of individual freedom of contract. In this context of emergent capitalism, it was considered that wage regulation and social protection contradicted civil liberties such as the right to celebrate contracts.8 Marshall notes that assistance for the indigent under the New Poor Law was conditional on their renouncing individual liberties, their confinement in a Poor House, and the loss of their political rights, that is, if they actually had any to lose.9 This destruction of earlier forms of regulation and construction of new labor relations often triggered violent responses on the part of workers, based on their conceptions of justice and their “moral economy.”

The working conditions of the male workforce were not subject to state intervention because they were considered free citizens who voluntarily assumed the conditions of their contracts. As for industrial relations, we should note that the French Chapelier Law of 1791 and the British Combination Acts of 1799 and 1800 banned associations among workers and thus reflected the views on civil citizenship characteristic of early capitalism (Castel, 1995:255-337). Throughout Europe, workers’ manifestations or attempts at organization would be treated as rebellions and be repressed by the state. This began to change near the end of the 19th century, when early forms of collective bargaining emerged as instruments for the creation of what Marshall calls “industrial citizenship.” This did not yet imply the formation of social rights, because this modification of the laws of the market relied on the collective exercise of civil rights and not on political intervention. Though foreshadowing the emergence of social rights, the acceptance of collective bargaining took place in the civil “sphere” while the subsequent formation of social rights would take place in the political domain. Social rights, conceived of as entitlements for each and every citizen, would derive from the exercise of political power and relied on the decommoditization of access to certain goods and services. After 1945, as “warfare” states were gradually transformed into “welfare” states, this new configuration of citizenship would be formalized through policies that relied on Keynesian economics and Fordist regulation (Castel, 1995).10

By defining social rights as entitlements administered through political intervention and decommoditization, Marshall outlined a new foundation of citizenship, distinct from the liberal one. In order to achieve the coexistence of the principle of liberty with that of the free market, Marshall proposed that the state guarantee a minimum level of wellbeing necessary for the autonomous participation of all people in social and political life, separated from the “achievement principle.” In this manner, he argued, “citizenship becomes the architect of legitimate inequalities.” In other words, instead of defining citizenship in terms of property, this concept was given a new basis in universal, politically-guaranteed social rights through the redistributive intervention of the state. Marshall’s ideal thus implies a significant departure from the 19th century liberal model of citizenship, due to its objective of reconciling the principles of equality with those of the market economy, which required setting limits to free competition.

It should be stressed that Marshall outlined an ideal that was partly realized in welfare states and, moreover, that he developed his views on citizenship by taking the British case as a reference. Thus, he describes the development of citizenship as a sort of evolutionary sequence that passes from civil rights, through political rights, to social rights. This representation has been criticized by various authors, among them Michael Mann (1996) in his essay on ruling class strategies and citizenship, first published in 1987. Arguing against the evolutionary sequence, this author emphasizes the power relations between classes in order to develop a more critical perspective on the unequal and non-lineal development of the bundle of rights that make up citizenship. Besides the liberal scenario, which was followed by Britain and the United States, Mann mentions four other strategies: reformist (France, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia); monarchic authoritarian (Germany, Austria, Russia and Japan); fascist (Nazi Germany); and authoritarian socialist (the Soviet Union). These were all strategies designed to transform the frontal confrontation between massive and antagonistic social classes, as foreseen by Hegel, Marx and others, into conflicts less defined by their class character; more limited and complex; and on occasions more orderly and on others less so. In Gramscian terms, one might say that they are just so many ways of maintaining power through variable mixes of hegemony –in the sense of achieving consent– and coercion.

Without entering into a detailed discussion of each of these strategies, it is worth calling attention to the case of Germany. In the course of the 19th century, the Prussian regime and the local bourgeoisie came to the conclusion that civil citizenship and its liberal rights would be indispensable to the achievement of modernization. This civil liberty, however, coexisted with the virtual absence of political citizenship for the majority of the population. At the same time, partly as a consequence of a traditionalist paternalist ideology, Germany’s modernizing absolutist regime also came to favor a modicum of social citizenship.11 It was Kaiser Wilhelm and Otto von Bismarck, and not the liberals or the reformists, who invented the welfare state. Although its expansion was limited, this scheme, which included social security and pensions, was relatively advanced in comparison with those of Britain, France or the United States. While such incipient welfare schemes were being elaborated, from 1878 to 1890, anti-socialist laws impeded the political organization of the German working class, whose civil rights were severely curtailed through the suppression of labor unions. This is just one case that demonstrates that the development of citizenship rights is not a lineal evolutionary process. Of the bundle of rights that Marshall considered, some may advance while others contract, according to the relations of power in a given country. This case also shows once again that within the set of civil rights, those related to the functioning of a market economy were guaranteed, while freedom of association was not. When we direct our attention to Latin America, we observe a distinct ruling class strategy in relation to citizenship: populism, which in certain aspects resembles the Bismarckian strategy.12

Before turning our attention to Latin America, we must first extend our examination of the transformation of civil society and its new relationship to the state in Western Europe towards the end of the 19th century. One important aspect of that process was the institutionalization of compulsory education. In western countries, literacy increased from around 60% of the population in 1870 to over 90% by the end of the century, proving that massive public education and the emergence of social rights were among the significant changes that took place in the relationship between the state and civil society. At the same time, industrialization entered a new phase thanks to technological innovations and the introduction of new forms of organization such as Taylorism in the 1880s and Fordism by the early 20th century. This was also a time of diversification of society with the emergence of new middle classes based in bureaucratic occupations, in both expanding state apparatuses and industry. Gradually, the living conditions of the masses improved, transforming them into a public of consumers that became the target of new means of mass communication, a process that contributed to the consolidation of nationalisms. Politics also underwent a change with the emergence of large-scale political parties and a greater tolerance of workers’ organizations. One might say that whereas the balance between consent and coercion tipped towards the latter in the early 19th century, by the end of that century the element of consent had gained considerable ground.

In 1895, on the occasion of the reprinting of some of Marx’ writings on the class struggle in France, Engels wrote a Preface in which he reflected on the transformation of political life and criticized the insurrectionary road à la 1848 that had characterized a large part of the 19th century. Calling attention to the improved equipment of repressive apparatuses, on the one hand, and considering the electoral advances of German Social Democracy, on the other, he recommended that the socialist movement reconsider its tactics and wager first on the electoral road and the patient labor of propaganda and parliamentary politics (Engels, 1971). Although arguments between “revisionist” and “orthodox” socialists went on for quite some time and were renewed after the Russian Revolution, in practice, European Social Democracy adopted the electoral road.
Years later, between 1929 and 1935, Gramsci reflected on the economic, social and cultural changes that had occurred in Western Europe. With the emergence of large labor unions and new professional associations, mass political parties and universal suffrage, new means of cultural production and “private apparatuses of hegemony,” a new sphere had come into being, one relatively autonomous from both the economic domain and the repressive apparatuses of the state. Gramsci sought to disentangle the implications for leftist strategies often inspired by the 1871 Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution. It was in these reflections that, after a lengthy absence, the concept of civil society re-emerged in Marxian theorizing. A central element in Gramsci’s reflection is his comparison of conditions in “the East” and “the West”: “In the East the state was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West a proper relation between the state and civil society existed and when the state trembled, the robust structure of civil society immediately revealed itself” (Gramsci, 1971:238).

Comparisons such as these informed his reflections on hegemony and the “war of positions” within civil society. Under the conditions in the West, revolution could not be insurrectional or a “war of movement” to “take power” –analogous to storming the Winter Palace– and a subsequent construction of hegemony over a “gelatinous” civil society. To the contrary, what was needed was a prior patient construction of new intellectual, moral, and economic orientations (Gramsci, 1971:161) in order to build a counter-hegemony that could sustain a power alternative. Retrieving the concept of civil society, Gramsci contributed significantly to the critique of the prevailing statecentrism. Civil society emerged as a field and as an object of struggle.

As we shall see, Gramsci’s work would be a source of inspiration, not only for the renovation of the political culture of the Latin American Left but also for academic work that developed new perspectives on culture in general and on political culture in particular. This opened the way for much more creative approaches than those inspired by functionalism or those that relied on the concept of ideology, which, when all is said and done, were not really that distinct.13

Permutations of citizenship in Latin America

Argentine – Wiki Commons

Liberal notions of citizenship have become what Santos (1998a) would call a “globalized localism.” In Latin America, such ideas were first appropriated by the criollo elites in their struggles against the peninsulares, but they struck no deep chords among the population. There were some radical popular conspiracies inspired by the French Revolution in Brazil and certain other countries, but they were soon subdued, and the main result seems to have been similar to that of the indigenous revolts of the Andean region; namely, to scare the elites and inspire mistrust of the so-called “dangerous classes.” Latin American independence was mainly an affair of the criollo elites who maintained a “healthy distance” from the popular masses (Mallon, 1995).

What predominated was a criollo liberalism focused largely on free trade. Although new constitutions abolished Indian tribute, they also limited citizens’ rights to the property-owning classes and did not put an end to slavery. Indeed, Indian tribute soon reappeared under new denominations such as the contribución indigenal. The new republics also often recognized the “adscription” of workers to haciendas and delegated or privatized the administration of these populations to hacendados; a situation quite distinct from the monopolization of violence by the modern state described by Weber (1958:78). Despite solemn declarations on equality, new social classifications emerged that were often even more hierarchical and exclusionary than those of colonial society.

At the same time, the liberal view on private property and its virtues provided a rationalization for the privatization of corporately-held lands. Citizenship thus served as a mechanism for dispossessing indigenous communities and consolidating the landowning oligarchy. By the 1870s, post-independence turbulence had settled down and given way to relatively stable oligarchic orders, based largely on a combination of state and private violence. Much more than in Europe, the state here preceded the “nation” and if the nation was an “imagined community,” then it was imagined by –and for– the dominant class, in such a way that most of the population became “invisible.”

The persistence of this “invisibility” up to the present is now being challenged by demands for the recognition of diversity and the rights of the indigenous and black populations (Assies, Van der Haar and Hoekema, 2000). Latin American populism, as noted, can be viewed as another ruling class strategy in relation to citizenship. Around the beginning of the 20th century, the “problem of the incorporation of the masses” became a matter of concern (Weffort, 1980). Populism emerged as a top-down form of incorporating the masses in a context of increasing urbanization and industrialization and the pressures exerted by emerging sectors to enter the political arena. It should be noted that at the end of the 1920s, only 2.3% of the Brazilian population voted in presidential elections. In Chile, the figure was 6.6%, and in Argentina and Uruguay, 12.9% and 18.4%, respectively (Mainwaring, 1995:358; see also Sokoloff, 2002). Clearly, the political arena was dominated by “parties of notables.” However, the downfall of those oligarchies, in many cases precipitated by the crisis of 1929, did not imply a clear rupture but, rather, a reaccommodation.

This was not at all similar to the French Revolution. As Weffort (1980) puts it, Vargas’ 1930 “revolution” in Brazil was a “poor revolution, but the only one we had,” underlining that it was a preemptive move intended to avert a potential popular movement. The outcome was what has been called a “compromise situation”: the landowning oligarchy was not defeated, but given a new place in the field of forces. There was no national bourgeoisie capable of leading a project of independent industrialization, but what was emerging were “urban masses” of workers and middleclass sectors. In such a context of precarious “equilibrium” among classes, the state could become “relatively autonomous,” procure compromises among different sectors, and manipulate them in order to promote industrial development. This was the so-called “arbiter” state, one that while often relying on the armed forces could claim the role of “moderating power.” It was in just such situations of precarious equilibrium that leaders like Vargas or Perón could project  themselves as the incarnation of the “national popular” state.

Even though this compromise situation implied a delimitation of the power of the oligarchy, the inclusion of the masses stopped short of the rural population. In most countries, the rural sector continued to be “administrated” privately; the Brazilian coroneís being one case in point. The urban masses were partly incorporated through corporatist structures that included some sectors of the working population and middleclass, white-collar groups. The provision of services was conditioned on membership in para-public unions, authorized and sponsored by the state, which, in turn, was personally incarnated in the Leader, an object of affection considered the “Father of the Poor” or the “Protector of the Shirtless.” According to Lautier (1993), the emergence of the Latin American version of the welfare state was characterized by three features:

1)  the initial appearance of a system of social security (covering work accidents, illness and pensions) for specific sectors of the population; 2) the inclusion of trade unions in a context marked by the absence of union freedom; and, 3) mechanisms of social assistance that became props for political clientelism. The outcome was the formation of “social enclaves,”  discretionally provided with some social “rights” in exchange for a restriction of civil and political ones (Roberts, 1995:184-207). Important sectors of the population remained on the margins of such systems as they were employed in sectors that were not officially recognized, and constituted what would later be dubbed the “informal” sector.
Populism manifested itself in different ways and with distinct intensities in many Latin American countries as a phenomenon that accompanied the transition from the oligarchic agro-export model to urban industrial society, which took place in the postwar period of import substituting industrialization and desarrollo hacia dentro (development toward the inside). Many countries achieved significant growth rates and societies became predominantly urban. However, the incorporating capacity of such processes was patchy and unequal, as is reflected in the Cepalist notion of “structural heterogeneity.” Despite manifest intentions to emulate European universalist welfare systems, those promoted by Latin American states were highly stratified and segmented (Santos, 1987; Draibe, 1989, 1990; Gordon, 1999). Social rights did not emerge as universalized entitlements but rather as handouts from a state personified in “the Leader.” Clientelist relations curbed the autonomous participation of the individual and the popular sectors were integrated primarily as “masses to be maneuvered” in the power game. In contrast to the partial, fragmented incorporation of the urban population, the rural population remained excluded. As time passed, the expansion of “marginality” became ever more visible in the spread of vilas perdidas, favelas, calampas, tugurios (i.e., slums), etc. and of the informal sector, all of which were marginalized elements dependent on the tolerance of those in power and subject to their manipulations.14

The 1960s saw the gradual disintegration of populist regulation and its replacement by bureaucratic-authoritarian regimes (Collier, 1979; O’Donnell, 1999). According to Weffort (1980), military intervention reflected a crisis of regulation in populist regimes. The perception among the masses was that populist handouts had gradually been transformed into entitlements, while at the same time the demand for such rights was rising and being expressed in increasingly autonomous forms of mobilization that threatened to overwhelm the limits of a capitalist economy. Though the debate is ample and there are alternative explanations for the demise of populism and the emergence of new authoritarianisms (Collier, 1979; O’Brien and Cammack, 1985), there can be no doubt that for many countries the 1970s were characterized by the suppression of civil and political rights and the institutionalization of state terror.

Without entering into a detailed discussion of such authoritarianisms, it is worth noting the distinct trajectories that social rights followed the Brazilian and Chilean dictatorships. The Brazilian program of conservative modernization included consolidating the state-sponsored welfare system and broadening its coverage through a sort of “neo-Bismarckism.” The Chilean regime, in contrast, pioneered the introduction of the neoliberal reforms that currently prevail in the region. Such measures consist in privatizing and decentralizing the core of the welfare state (privatization and individualization of pensions and social security and decentralization/privatization of education and healthcare), leaving behind a reduced field for state intervention to fight “extreme poverty” through focalized interventions aimed at “helping the deserving poor help themselves.”

Where the social sector is concerned, neoliberal policies are oriented by a critique of the beneficiary state, ideologically represented as the “providential state” (Castel, 1995:452). It is argued that a culture of dependence has been created and that, moreover, state intervention in the freedom of citizens should be curbed. Such criticism is founded on a peculiar conception of the citizen, who comes to be viewed primarily as a sovereign consumer. Instead of a “citizenship of rights,” what is being proposed here is an “asset-based citizenship” (Lo Vuolo, 2002); a kind of postmodern re-edition of property-based citizenship. Such views underpin the drive towards the privatization and individualization of pension and social security schemes, as well as the “New Public Management” prescriptions that seek to introduce forms of entrepreneurial management and semi-market mechanisms into public administration. The idea is that the state or private agencies provide services to consumer-citizens who, in turn, can freely elect among service providers according to rational cost-benefit calculations.15 Here, we are presented with a utopian vision of a society ruled by the market mechanism, in which consumer rights become the central axis of citizenship (Sorj, 2001). Moreover, politics is conceived of in the same way: reduced to simple procedures in which the vote serves as a market signal. I will return to this issue in my discussion of the “new democracies.”
Before broaching that topic, however, we should turn our eye to the “discovery of civil society” by the Latin American Left and the development of a citizenship-discourse opposed to the neoliberal conception of an assets-based, consumerist citizenship.

The “discovery” of civil society and of citizenship as a strategy
For the Latin American Left, the 1970s were the years of the “discovery” of civil society as a terrain for political struggle, of citizenship as a political strategy and of democracy as a value in itself (Barros, 1986, Castañeda, 1994; Dagnino, 1994, 1998: Weffort, 1988). These discoveries constituted a profound rupture with the ideological traditions and political culture of the Left. Weffort (1988:515) has underscored the fact that this rupture did not derive from an intellectual finding but, rather, from lived experience. The discovery that there is politics beyond the state began with the experiences of those persecuted by authoritarian regimes. Civil society was “born” from the experience of fear and the search for protection in the face of state terrorism. In the case of Brazil, the family, the Church, the Bar Association and, somewhat later, when the regime began to “distend,” trade unions, employers associations and cultural organizations were all found to be spaces that provided protection and allowed for resistance. Simultaneously, the disastrous guerilla experience and the defeat of vanguardism fueled debate over left-wing strategies, civil society and democracy. By then, political liberalization and the incipient transition process had triggered what was called the “awakening of civil society,” that expressed itself in a proliferation of social movements that prompted further theoretical reflection which, in turn, influenced the construction of the emerging movements and the way they framed their discourses (Assies, 1994, 1997). There is no doubt that in this context access to Gramsci’s writings16 has been crucial in opening up new horizons of political thought (Dagnino, 1998; Sader, 1988:167) and has helped to construct a new political grammar revolving around notions of democracy, civil society, citizenship and rights. Instead of the ruling class strategy of citizenship being imposed from above, what was articulated was a citizenship strategy “from below.”

The Brazilian case perhaps reflects most clearly the process of the construction of a new grammar and its penetration into political discourse and common sense. For this reason, I will discuss it at some length. In a recent analysis of Brazilian social movements, Hochstetler (2000) distinguishes two cycles of mobilization, the first of which began in the 1970s and ended in 1985, when the country formally returned to civilian rule at all levels of government. This new context gave rise to a second cycle of mobilization, oriented around a reconfigured discourse or a new “master frame,”17 strongly anchored in the concept of citizenship. During the first cycle, which coincided with the “awakening of civil society,” the “master frame” had been one of frontal “opposition to the military regime” and demands for democracy that did not reflect a desire to participate in the existing political regime but, rather, its replacement.

Although notions of civil society and citizenship were not absent, this “master frame” was what I have called the “paradigm of he 1970s” (Assies, 1990:73-77). It was largely inspired by Marxist writings on the urban question (Borja, 1975; Castells, 1974, 1977; Lojkine, 1981) and carried the expectation that the end of authoritarianism –democracy–would necessarily be accompanied by a “social transformation” (Sader, 1988). This was the “heroic phase” of confrontation with the regime. The relationship between civil society and the state was clearly conceived in a Manichean fashion. However, though this conception reflected quite well the experience of opposition and repression (Dagnino, 1998:41), by the early 1980s, it was beginning to be criticized. Gramsci’s writings contributed to the development of more differentiated views on the relations between civil society and the state, and there were also some rather practical reasons to rethink them, since in the course of the transition process the opposition had in fact become the government at various levels of the state structure.18 The opposition movement reached its peak during the 1984 campaign for direct presidential elections –direitas já– though it did not achieve its objective. In 1985, after the tragic death of Tancredo Neves, who had been elected by an electoral college, Vice-President José Sarney assumed the presidency and attention shifted to the drafting of a new Constitution.

It was in this context that the “master frame” centered on democracy and the confrontation between civil society and the state gave way to one centered on citizenship. As Hochstetler (2000:167) rightly observes, the new frame revealed important continuities with the previous one in its reliance on a language of inclusion and exclusion and its definition of social exclusion as the “absence of citizenship.” In this sense, however, the notion of citizenship goes well beyond merely legal or political definitions and comes to include social and economic indicators. Hunger, violence and the lack of access to land could now be signified in terms of the absence of citizenship.

A new grammar emerged in which citizenship was conceived of as a “strategy” (Dagnino, 1994). Dagnino mentions some of the fundamental features of “citizenshipas-strategy”:
– the redefinition of the notion of rights in the sense that the point of departure is the “right to have rights,” entailing a significant broadening of the definition of rights; – it implies that we are not dealing with a dominant-class strategy, but with the constitution of active social subjects;
– it entails the diffusion of a “culture of rights” that goes beyond their formal-legal aspect to include a proposal for a new sociability; – this, in turn, means going beyond the liberal perspective with its emphasis on the relation with the state in order to include the relations that exist in civil society. Dagnino underscores that this presupposes an “intellectual and moral reform” in the Gramscian sense;
– belonging means not only participation in a given system but the right to an effective participation in defining that system. Dagnino cites experiments with participatory budgeting at the municipal level as an example;
– finally, this new conception of citizenship should incorporate both equality and difference.

Such views seek to retrieve the cultural and ethical-moral aspects of social-political struggles. Social movements do not merely pursue material or institutional goals but are engaged at the same time in “wars of interpretation” over the meaning of “rights,” citizenship, and the spaces for –and forms of doing– politics. Along the way, therefore, they affect and transform political culture (Alvarez, Dagnino and Escobar, 1998). The renewed reading of Gramsci’s work contributed to a rupture with the state-centered understanding of political activity and a reconceptualization of power as a relation between social forces rather than “something there for the taking.” Additionally, attention was directed to civil society as an object and a terrain for political action. Finally, this opened the way to new conceptions of culture that broke away from the concept of ideology as false consciousness or a simple reflection of the economic base.

This was experienced as a liberation from economic reductionism, determinism and state-centrism and, therefore, as an escape from a cognitive straightjacket (Dagnino, 1994, 1998). This conception of “citizenship-as-strategy” did not simply reflect the new post- 1985 conditions, it also provided a powerful instrument for questioning the quality of the new democracy and a framework for new forms of mobilization and for doing politics. Once again, the question of social integration was high on the agenda.

Disenchantment and incivility
The 1970s saw not only the beginnings of transitions from authoritarian rule, but also of those towards a new economic model: neoliberalism. The two tracks of this “double transition” are not easily combined. Though the difficulties of the nationaldevelopmentalist model in the “easy phase” of import substituting industrialization 19 had become increasingly notable by the 1960s, it was the second oil shock of 1979 that triggered a deep worldwide recession. The following years would be marked by policies of structural adjustment and state reform, and the 1980s would  become known as the “lost decade.” The prices of primary goods, minerals and agricultural products fell to levels comparable to those of the 60s, while fuel prices soared. In 1982, the Mexican crisis erupted and it soon became clear that Brazil and Argentina would be unable to fulfill their foreign debt obligations. Per capita product in Latin America fell drastically, inflation became rampant and private and public investment and social spending were reduced dramatically. By the end of the 80s, officials from multilateral agencies and government representatives had agreed on a new economic policy, designed to assure the governability of Latin American countries: the so-called “Washington Consensus” (Williamson, 1990). Its main features were deregulation, market liberalization and the transformation of the role of the state, including a reduction of its involvement in social policies. Although this shock treatment restored macro-economic stability, the social costs of the crises and the measures taken to combat them were dramatic indeed (Green, 1999; Weeks, 1995).

In the course of the “lost decade,” per capita GDP dropped by more than 7%, while the proportion of the population living in poverty rose from 40% to 46% (Vilas, 1995). The impoverishment of important sectors of the middle classes spawned the “new poor.” The 1990s brought a certain recovery and a reduction of poverty levels, but by the end of that same decade “de-acceleration” set in, in the wake of the Asian crisis. Thus, while at the end of the decade the number of poor was estimated to be around 200 million –37% of the population– it was expected to increase again to some 220 million as a consequence of “de-acceleration” (CEPAL, 2000). Meanwhile, adjustment and economic transformation have resulted in new social-economic configurations that combine increases in productivity with greater income concentration. A recent study shows that in nearly all Latin American countries the Gini index, which was already quite impressive, has risen (Székely, 2001). As Fanfani writes: the rich become richer and the poor more numerous (Tenti Fanfani, 2001).

This increase in inequality goes together with a restructuring of labor markets that results in new forms of exclusion and greater precariousness in a context in which compensatory schemes have been stripped away or reduced to focalized, privatized interventions. Open unemployment has gone up to two-digit percentages and the number of people with low-productivity, informal jobs is increasing. The formal sector shows little capacity to create employment and is involved rather in a process of informalization as a result of the erosion of collective contracts and increasing flexibility. The number of permanent jobs has decreased and, as a result, the stability that structured the lives of a good number of salaried workers and their families has crumbled away (Portes and Hoffmann, 2003). As production increases employment drops, thus generating a contingent of “superfluous” and/or “unemployable” workers (Tenti Fanfani, 2001).20

These processes become interlaced with new forms of social and spatial segregation often associated with forms of ethnic or racial discrimination. The production of new marginalized sectors expresses itself in the creation of virtual urban ghettos where a sort of social extra-territoriality reigns. While the state certainly keeps watch over them it abstains from maintaining an actual presence there. Such sectors, then, are largely left to their own devices to “enjoy” the only right they have: the “right to misery.”21 Hence, we observe the formation of spaces of socialization and living that are governed according to the laws of the urban jungle: “islands” or “peripheral” areas – though some are located in central urban zones– where new forms of participation in a society that has elevated consumption to its highest norm emerge (Tenti Fanfani, 2001).
The dissonance between societal normativity and real exclusion promotes sentiments of relative deprivation and frustration that intertwine with attempts to break out of the condition of ninguneado (nobodyness) and to achieve the consumer dream in “illicit” ways. Sansone, who studied such phenomena in the very different context of Dutch society, captures the situation quite well in book titles that suggest that those who “missed the boat” seek to “shine in the shadow” (Sansone, 1990; 1992). Other studies (Pierruci, 1994; Telles, 1995) have pointed to the growing gap in sociability among sectors of the population and the construction of mental cartographies that divide urban spaces into more or less dangerous zones (BID, 1998; Kowarick, 2000; Peralva, 1996).
Segregation and the new climate of fear that reigns in the cities materialize in architectural designs and the privatization of urban space through the construction of closed condominiums (Caldeira, 2000). Despite the transitions to electoral democracy, the incapacity to construct an inclusionary societal project, both in the ethical-political and the economic sense,22 results in the coercive element taking precedence over the aspect of consent.23 Everyday  forms of state coercion become increasingly visible, while at the same time one notes a privatization of the means of violence through the creation of private security agencies. It is estimated that in many cities private security guards now outnumber the police.

Thus, the processes of transition have not contributed to a decrease in state and parastate violence, but rather to a change in the object of that violence. Left-wing subversion is no longer the “internal enemy”; as this role has been taken over by a modern version of the “dangerous classes,” generated by an economic model to which, it is said, there are “no alternatives.” The expectations once generated by the “awakening of civil society” are now giving way to new concerns and to disenchantment with societies that seem to be becoming increasingly uncivil. Violence, injustice and impunity seem to be the norm, and they undermine the legitimacy of judicial and police institutions. In fact, much of the violence directed against the most vulnerable sectors of society is perpetrated by police apparatuses themselves. Moreover, the armed forces are becoming increasingly involved in tasks related to public security and maintenance of order (Holson and Caldeira, 1998; Isla and Miguez, 2003; López-Ménendez, 2000; Méndez, O’Donnell and Pinheiro, 2000; Pereira, 2000; Seoane, 2003).

In reference to the new democracies, O’Donnell (1999:142) has coined the term “low-intensity citizenship.” Though these are democracies in the sense that political rights and polyarchy are respected, they are also “delegative democracies.”24 By the same token and as we have already seen, in the context of the globalizing economy the new democracies confront obstacles or lack the political will to do something about the “social debt.” At best, some emergency programs were implemented that were later replaced by focalized policies, while social policies were decentralized and at times privatized. The coverage and quality of social services has declined. The notion of “low-intensity citizenship,” however, refers specifically to the un-rule of law and the non-existence of civil rights for important sectors of the population, which are subjected to forms of “perversely privatized” violence and coercion.

Countercurrents: citizenship-as-strategy
The emergence of formally democratic but increasingly uncivil societies is precisely one of the themes that the concept of “citizenship-as-strategy” addresses. In the early 1990s, Brazil witnessed a series of violent events in rural and urban areas. Later, in 1995 and 1996, confrontations between the Movimento sem Terra and the Military Police resulted in massacres that cost dozens of lives. These two cases are indicative of the pervasive climate of state and private violence in rural areas that has been amply documented by the Comisão Pastoral da Terra. As for urban areas, the killing of streetchildren in Rio de Janeiro in 1993, the massacre in the favela Vigário Geral in that same year and then the one in favela Nova Brasília a year later all drew the nation’s attention.

In 1992, the Military Police killed 111 inmates at the Carandiru prison in São Paulo (Varella, 1999). In 1997, an Indian who had traveled to Brasilia to discuss his people’s land disputes with government officials was doused with gasoline and set on fire by some middle-class adolescents who later stated that they thought he was “just a beggar.” Thus, the climate –not only in Brazil, but throughout Latin America– is now marked by police and private violence, not to mention that practiced by organized crime. To protest such everyday violence, campaigns such as “Citizens’ Action against Misery and Pro-Life”25 and Viva Rio were launched. These were conceived as multiclass mobilizations committed to vindicating citizens’ rights. The Citizens’ Action campaign was largely financed through state enterprises and public institutions. Popular participation consisted in a broad spectrum of activities, among them attending shows staged by famous artists in exchange basic food products to be distributed among the poor. Coalition-building between the middle classes and the favelados is difficult, however, and reveals the very real distances that separate these two sectors. Although the middle classes may well view the favelados as victims of violence, they also see them as major perpetrators of it (Hochstetler, 2000). Attempts to extend such mobilizations to the more structural causes of violence, such as the extreme inequity in income and land distribution, have failed to generate a similar degree of success.

“Participatory budgeting” is another example of an innovation inspired by “citizenship-as-strategy.”26 The underlying idea is to create a new public, non-state sphere of deliberation that reduces the power of both the executive and legislative branches in favour of the populace. The objective of participatory budgeting is to devolve real decision-making power and control over public affairs to the population. It opens up a space for debating the municipal budget and its operative planning in order to publicize and confront interests so that they can be spelled out, justified and confirmed, or not, as “in the public interest.” This should contribute to setting new ethical-moral standards and constructing new parameters of citizenship. Many popular organizations are participating in public debates on the priorities of municipal administration, and this has made it possible to “invert priorities” in favor of “the majorities.” Although the case of Porto Alegre (Baierle, 1998; Magalhães, Barreto and Trevas, 1999; Navarro, 1998; Santos, 1998b; Utzig, 1999) is the best known, similar initiatives have spread throughout Latin America as is reflected, for example, in a study of alternative municipal government experiments in Ecuador under the suggestive title of “emerging citizenships” (Hidalgo et al., 1999).

It is by no means fortuitous that in January 2001 Porto Alegre hosted the World Social Forum in response to the World Economic Forum in Davos, and continued to host such events in subsequent years. These social forums bring together large numbers of intellectuals, trade unionists, politicians and representatives of NGOs and social movements to debate the production and distribution of wealth, access to welfare, sustainability, civil society, public spaces, political power and ethics in contemporary society. Through their search for alternatives, these forums have inserted themselves into what has disparagingly been called the “globalifobic movement.”

The “citizenship-as-strategy” framework consciously includes an aspect of cultural politics in order to counter the view of citizenship that reduces this concept to consuming individuals and consumer rights. Though the rights of consumers to public and other services are certainly a central element of this strategy, it seeks to go further by creating new spaces for public deliberation and struggles to attain the recognition that not all consumers are created equal. Thus “citizenship-as-strategy” presents itself as a counter-hegemonic measure that seeks new forms of exercising and democratizing state and economic power.

Some final reflections
In this essay, I have examined the relation between the concepts of civil society and citizenship. This approach departed in certain ways from the currently fashionable understanding of civil society, which often conceives of it as the space of associative life, distinct from the economy and from political society. This tripartite model is frequently attributed to Gramsci, though it derives from a specific reading of his work by, amongst others, Bobbio (1987, first published in 1969). In that text, Bobbio argues that Gramsci introduced a profound innovation in Marxist theorizing by conceiving of civil society as part of the superstructure rather than of the infrastructure, a view soon questioned by Gerratana (1981) and others. The complexity of the debate increased when, in the 1980s, neo-conservatives and neoliberals appropriated the concept of civil society in order to demonize the state. They, and others, began to propose civil society as the space of the “supportive (“solidario”) third sector” or “public non-state sector,” an entity situated beyond the state and the market in which non-profit organizations and other kinds of groups would take charge of tasks that the state was busily shedding. Although in retrieving the concept of civil society Gramsci certainly sought to examine the new complexity of western societies, this does not necessarily mean that he thought of civil society as being located radically beyond the state and the market.

Rather, one might think of civil society in terms of relative autonomy and examine its relations with –and porosities in relation to– political society and the economy. The tripartite division thus appears to be one of mutually constituting and conditioning spheres that cannot be reduced simply one to another but that operate according to their own relatively autonomous rules and dynamics. Instead of viewing civil society as the space of liberty and voluntary association, and even reifying it, this would allow us to take into account the relations of economic and political power that traverse civil society and to construct a political economy of citizenship.

In this article, I have sought to outline some of the permutations of citizenship and its relations with civil society. As Marshall (1950) has shown, the initial notions of citizenship as a concept anchored in property collided with pre-capitalist forms of social protection and contributed to their demise. The resistance of the subaltern classes, informed by their notions of moral economy, has been amply analyzed by British social historians (cf. Dworkin, 1997), among others. The result of capitalist development and these struggles was a partial decommoditization of the reproduction of labor and the configuration of a new political economy of citizenship in which social rights became key. However, we also saw that no linear development of citizenship rights can be assumed. As a result of confrontations and ruling class strategies regarding citizenship, one dimension may expand while another is reduced, as illustrated by the German case and the case of Latin American populisms.

Critiques of the welfare state, maliciously represented as the “providential state,” seek to promote another transformation of citizenship by opposing the model of the sovereign consumer to a culture of dependency, supposedly produced by welfare arrangements. The objective here is to transfer state responsibilities in the area of social rights towards private agents –be they non-profit or profit-motivated– and to achieve their recommoditization.27 Here, competition over consumer preferences is expected to benefit such a reconstituted citizen. The objective is not only to depoliticize the economy but to depoliticize social life as well, on the assumptions that the market mechanism can replace public deliberation and that individual consumerism can replace the search for collective goals. Thus, the market mechanism is converted into the new hegemonic device. This is not just a colonization of the public sphere by economic forces, as was feared by the Frankfurt theoreticians, but its replacement by the market mechanism. The reverse side of this societal model is revealed in the lack of sensitivity to the inequities that it generates. Whereas sectors living in extreme poverty may become objects of attention and “targeted intervention,” it is assumed that the remainder of society is essentially a “level playing field” upon which all participants have the same opportunities. Reality, however, is somewhat different and is marked by new forms of precariousness and marginalization and by low-intensity citizenship. While the developmentalist model at least held out some hope of integration in which the state functioned as a “hope-generating machine” (Nuijten, 1998), this entity now seeks to shed this function. In this context, new forms of state, para-state and privatized violence and coercion flourish and, in the eyes of some, the “double transition” –to electoral democracy and free marketeering– may well usher in a democratization of violence.

“Citizenship-as-strategy,” rooted in the “right to have rights,” was invented to counter just such a scenario. Civil society was revealed as an object and a terrain of struggle, while citizenship became a device for questioning a broad range of injustices and exclusions considered signs of “non-citizenship,” which become the object of political practice that contests the dominant meanings of citizenship. This not only opened up new horizons, but also established new frames of reference. However, recourse to civil society has often entailed an impoverishment of  reflections on politics and the state. Frequently, it derives into a celebration of extra-institutionality and the formation of subaltern counter-publics, or it declares civil society to be the field of struggle of social movements as well as their primary objective. What is often absent is a reflection on the way this may affect the dominant institutionality and how it may contribute to its democratization. Those who call attention to civil society and the cultural dimensions of political struggles have rightly criticized the narrowly institutional focus of some analysts with respect to transitions to electoral democracy (Alvarez, Dagnino and Escobar, 1998), but this all too often has come at the price of an impoverished view of institutions and of the ways they may be made more democratic.

Slater (1998), for example, sets up a distinction between “the political” and “politics” and argues that whereas the former constitutes the living movement, the latter signifies the “pacification of the political.” Such a view, in which politics inevitably appears as an inherently normalizing and repressive activity, stands in the way of a serious reflection on the relations between the state and civil society and may be an obstacle when it comes to thinking about “progressive politics” or forms of empowerment that require the use of public power and legislation in order to counter tendencies and interests deeply embedded in civil society. While O’Donnell (1999:159-173) speaks of delegative democracies, Hagopian (1998) has drawn attention to the decline of the old networks of political representation such as parties and corporatist organizations, arguing that there is little evidence of the emergence of new forms of representation, as has been suggested by some enthusiastic accounts of the “awakening of civil society” and the formation of movements, associations and NGOs. Instead, we witness a deepening of a representation gap. The problem is not an excess of participation that leads to a crisis of governability, as predicted by neo-conservative thinkers, but rather a lack of credibility. This is cause for concern. As we saw, for different reasons neoliberal theorists as well as certain theorists of civil society and social movements coincide in turning their back on the state.28

However, instead of being content with criticizing the perspectives on social movements and civil society that seek to take into account their relations with political institutions and state apparatuses for their reductionism and following mainstream theorizing, what is needed is a renewed debate and new research that addresses questions regarding the democratization of institutions, in order to put them at the service of the construction of a more inclusive form of citizenship.29

1 Cited in Zucker (2003:9).
2 The American Revolution enfranchised the white male population; the 1791 French Constitution made a distinction between “active” and “passive” citizens according to the capacity to pay a direct tax. The “active” citizens could then elect “electors” from among those willing and able to pay a still higher tax. Finally, in an assembly in the departmental capitals the “electors,” voted for the national deputies. In other countries, the enduring presence of the aristocracy would be guaranteed through systems that included elements of representation by estate.
3 Olympe de Gouges, who in the early years of the French Revolution published a tract on “The Rights of Women Citizens,” was beheaded some years later for having desired to become a “statesman” (Albistur and Armogathe, 1977:213-36).
4 For outlines of the genealogy of the concept of civil society, see Cohen and Arato (1992:83-116), Bobbio (1987) or the volume edited by Shafir (1998).
5 Lenin (1971:325), when considering the withering away of the state and the emergence of a society in which everyone would contribute according to his/her capacities and receive according to need, took the postal services for a model of the ideal society; an idea that goes back to the somewhat authoritarian socialism of Louis Blanc (Vester, 1970:210, 239).
6 At the same time, the public-private dichotomy was construed, which institutionalized a gender bias that excluded women from participation in public affairs.
7 This transition can be thought of as a process of differentiation between the “political” and the “economic” spheres and as a form of privatization of certain political powers while, at the same time, the “political” and the “juridical” are constitutive of the “economic” sphere.
8 More recently, Castel (1995) has published a monumental study of the transformations of the “salaried.”
9 He also notes that the protection of women and children was only possible because they were not considered citizens.
10 Variations in the welfare schemes that emerged in post-war Europe, according to the degree of decommoditization with which they operate, should be noted. Such variation is reflected in the classification of welfare arrangements in three groups: liberal-residual, corporative-conservative, and social-democratic. For a discussion, see Draibe (1989, 1990).
11 It should also be noted that, at the time, Germany was heavily engaged in the imperialist competition, particularly in Africa.
12 The explanation for such a resemblance may be found in the similarity of class relations and, specifically, in the persistent presence of a class of large landowners in a context of a “conservative modernization” project.
13 Arguably, with its monolithic concept of an omnipresent dominant ideology, in the end Althusserian theorizing on ideology is not that different from the functionalist approach.
14 For further discussion of the concept of marginality, see Kowarick in Citizenship, Political Culture and State Transformation in Latin America
15 For further discussion, see Assies (2003).
16 These writings were available in Argentina by the end of the 1950s, in Brazil around 1968, and in México by 1970 (Dagnino, 1998; Kasnousi, 2000).

17 Hochstetler (2000) relies largely on the conceptual language of resource mobilization and political process theory as developed by Tarrow (1994) and McAdam, McCarthy and Zald (1996). For a somewhat different periodization of Brazilian social movements and a discussion of shifting theoretical perspectives, see Assies (1997), and for a recent “state of the question” see Salman (2001).

18 For an overview of the Brazilian process and references to key texts in the Brazilian debate, see Assies (1993, 1994, 1997, 1999).

19 The surge of authoritarianisms has often been related to the exhaustion of the first phase of importsubstituting industrialization. The transition to a second phase based on the production of intermediate goods and durable consumer goods required a type of market distinct from the existing one and a reversal  of the redistributive tendencies of populism, in order to promote income concentration and increase the purchasing power of the sectors demanding durable consumer goods. This might be one of the factors explaining the rise of exclusionary authoritarian regimes (Collier, 1979).

20 See also the articles by Tom Kruse, Lúcio Kowarick and Emilio Duhau in Citizenship, Political Culture and State Transformation in Latin America

21 Title of a collection of postcards produced by Brazilian friends on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Lopes and Bazzo, 1998).

22 Gramsci (1971:161) emphasizes that hegemony includes the economic aspect, a fact often too easily forgotten in current culturalist interpretations of hegemony.

23 See also the article by Laura Tedesco in Citizenship, Political Culture and State Transformation in Latin America

24 Once elections are over, the executive branch feels itself in a position to take practically any kind of decision it wishes, forgetting whatever electoral promises it may have made and not fulfilling the obligation of accountability. It is in such contexts that neo-populism and technocratic forms of decisionmaking coexist.

25 This campaign had its antecedents in the “Movement for Ethics in Politics” that contributed to the impeachment of Fernando Collor in 1992.

26 For a discussion of its emergence, see Assies (1993).

27 The proposals to engage the “third” or “public non-state” sector in the provision of public services are presented as an alternative. This proposal rests on the assumption that the motives of such non-profit organizations are rooted in values such as trust, dedication and solidarity. In this way, the proposal seeks to combine the recommoditization of social rights with non-profit motivations. On the other hand, this perspective stresses popular participation in the management, evaluation and control of public services, instead of a simple reliance on market and quasi-market “signals.” In lieu of viewing the citizen merely as an individual consumer, this view underscores republican values and participation in the public cause (Bresser Pereira and Cunnill Grau, 1998). One might situate this perspective, with its affinities to neostructuralism somewhere between the neoliberal strategy and the “citizenship-as-strategy” perspective.
28 In the early 1980s, Evers (1983) wrote a famous essay entitled “With the Back to the State, and far from Parliament.”
29 See also the recent PNUD (2004) report.

This essay was published in:
Willem Assies, Marco A. Calderón and Ton Salman (eds.) – Citizenship, Political Culture and State Transformation in Latin America – Rozenberg Publishers 2005 – ISBN 978 90 361 0030 4

In memoriam Willem Assies, 1954-2010

Ton Salman

Willem Assies

El día 22 de mayo falleció, demasiado temprano y repentinamente, el conocido latinoamericanista holandés Willem Assies. El tenia 55 años. Es una pérdida ireemplazable para el mundo de los estudios sobre el continente, dentro de Holanda pero también más allá. Willem Assies fue un antropólogo político muy prolífico, y trabajó en varias universidades en Holanda, pero también fue profesor e investigador, muchas veces invitado, en México, Guatemala, España, Alemania, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Brasil y Bolivia. Sus temas fueron organizaciones barriales, movimientos sociales, derechos indígenas, conflictos sobre tierras y territorios, políticas de decentralización, políticas y gestión local, partidos políticos étnicos, manejo sustentable de bosques tropicales, democratización y derechos ciudadanos. Realizó estudios sobre y en Colombia, Ecuador, México, Peru, Brasil, Chile y Bolivia. Publicó en portugés, francés, español, holandés, e inglés. Escribió cuatro libros, fue editor de seis compilaciones de artículos, y publicó más que cien artículos, muchas veces en revistas prestigiosas. Supervisó seis proyectos de doctorado, la mayoría en América Latina – y en el momento de su muerte todas estas actividades estaban en pleno curso. La muerte lo sorprendió como a pocos otros.

Willem Assies, sin embargo, no será recordado solamente por sus publicaciones y su impresionante trayectoria. También será recordado por su personalidad, a la vez irascible y amable, gruñon y ameno, y por ser bien refractario a todo protocolo y formalidad. Willem también fue muy hospitalario; no importaba dónde tenía su casa, siempre había gente conversando, durmiendo, comiendo y tomando, y pasándolo bien en ella. Willem Assies era bohemio y trabajador incansable en uno, y su energía fue razón de envidia y admiración para todos que lo conocieron.

A pesar de que casi nunca fue un tema explícito en conversaciones con él, todos sus esfuerzos de investigación tenían un denominador común: el tema, inalterablemente, fue el esfuerzo de dar voz a los underdog, de buscar la dignidad humana y la justicia. Por debajo de un aparente mordacidad, lataba un gran corazón humanista, y se escondió una búsqueda constante por estrategias con que los subalternos pudieron mejorar sus condiciones de vida, pudieron ganarse autorespeto y el respeto de otros, con lucha si fuera necesaria. Willem no era utopista: él sabía que el mundo y la historia eran demasiado ilógico y contingente para que el paraíso en el se pudiera realizar. Sin embargo, en su perspectiva, eso no significaba que se tendria que arrojar la toalla: la pelea para dignidad y justicia valía la pena, no importa cuán contradictoria y caprichudo el esfuerzo humano y el curso de la historia estuviera. Por eso, cuando escribió sobre Bolivia, escribió sobre las luchas y las paradojas de estas luchas de los movimientos sociales, sobre derechos indígenas y sobre justicia comunitaria, sobre las guerras del gas y del agua, y sobre los esfuerzos de los pobres de conseguirse voz y voto en la política nacional.

En Willem Assies, los investigadores sobre el continente y sobre Bolivia perdieron un colega, un estudioso y escritor inspirador, y un investigador prolífico y comprometido. Y muchos perdieron un voluntarioso pero muy leal y querido amigo.

Ton Salman, 2010

Willem Assies – In memoriam

Wil Pansters

It is with great sadness that we bring you the news of the sudden and untimely death of Willem Assies, a longstanding member of CERES and a prominent member of the scholarly community of Latin Americanists in the Netherlands. He was only 55 years old.

Originally trained as an anthropologist Willem Assies developed into a wide-ranging, critical and outspoken scholar of contemporary Latin America. He did research and published about peasantry and rural economies, urban social movements, citizenship, politics, democratization, and, in recent years, about indigenous movements and rights. He lived and worked in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, and Chili. Undoubtedly one of the most prolific and hard-working scholars of his generation, he had a special talent for theoretical debate and languages. His command of the literature was extraordinary. Willem Assies was also quite a character: straightforward, at times uncompromising, but always in for a conversation about his beloved Latin America or his other personal interests. He was wary of all forms of pomp, formalistic ritual and new forms of higher education management.
An engaged citizen of the world and an avid traveller, he built an impressive global network of colleagues and friends and was widely recognized as an eminent scholar. Dutch academic institutions never managed to fully appreciate Willem’s enormous academic potential, quality and achievements.

We wish his partner Gemma van der Haar, daughter Laura Willemijn, family, friends and colleagues all the strength needed to cope with the loss of Willem.

Wil Pansters, 2010
on behalf of CERES Office, Board and Directorate

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