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THE ILLUSION OF CIVIL SOCIETY: DEMOCRATIZATION AND COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION IN LOW-INCOME MEXICO by Jon Shefner (2008) Neoliberalism has

mixed impact on civil society. With states being constrained by international monetary agencies to institute neoliberal policies, it simultaneously shrinks spaces of participation and commitment for many local actors while opening spaces for contestation, opportunities and contingencies for others. This makes analysis of civil society, organizing, and contestation even more complicated than before, as globalization has opened new markets, new spaces, and new terrains that local actors have been hoping to exploit but have little control. This makes Shefners approach in studying civil society useful. He had been arguing throughout his book that we should focus on divisions within civil society in order for us to understand how neoliberalism and state policies differentially affect different actors within civil society (Shefner, 2008, pp. 49, 206). Sensitizing us to be more attentive to rifts within alliances because only in those breakages could we see a more dynamic interplay of power, stratification, and influence that the term civil society as a unified entity has been masking. This will be more effective in laying foundations for alliances than an illusory imposition of unity (p. 208). Depending on which sectors of civil society to focus on, we will be seeing different constellations of power relationship complicated by identities, resources, alliances, historical experiences, and timing. Shefner, however, is quick to remind us that [b]ecause neoliberalism is a class project, organized response to that project must be assessed in class terms: how people act from their class positions to resist, implement, or accommodate the class project (p. 207). 1. In the age of globalization and neoliberal hegemony, is national economic development possible without borrowing money from international lending banks? Are we in a state of impasse? (p. 28) 2. Shefner reminds us of a different form of agency. On discussing the logic behind the perseverance of clientelistic relations, he wrote: these organizations and their members pragmatically and strategically assess the political space in which they work. In so doing, they recognize the relative benefits of supporting a patron, the state, or a political party A sophisticated expression of agency leads clients to make astute decisions regarding what strategies will best serve their interests Clients recognized they could resolve their problems, partially and over time, by upholding systemic power (p. 43; emphasis mine). Shefner seems to imply that agency need not be macrostructurally oriented, that it need not contribute to macrostructural changes, and that it may contribute to the perseverance and legitimation of a bad system. Shefner continued: Although much of Cerro del Cuatro lacked urban services, the spotty existence of services provided residents with evidence that over time their needs would be satisfied through traditional political exchange. The clientelist networks remained strong in part because they characterized the community from its very beginning (p. 62; emphasis mine). How then is peoples resilience to survive and improve their lives, including symbolic level of affinity and legitimation [meanings], contributory to the legitimacy of clientelistic networks? 3. Shefner noted: The institutionalization of exchange relations created both affective and pragmatic ties as well as structuring political action (p. 71), which made liberation theology and the organizing of SEDOC and CEBs appealing because they have offered alternative view of justice that contrasted the increasingly empty rhetoric of revolutionary inclusion (p. 77). If globalization and neoliberalistic governmental and economic policies and changes produces risks and dangers, and contingencies that prevent long-term institutionalization of relations, [adding to the complexity the fact that since neoliberal times are economically contingent hence making people including

organizers to be more focused on economic survival]1, should we be seeing a more bleak future for clientelism and community organizing? 4. To what extent is SEDOCs success in organizing UCI attributable to the reduction of patronage pool due to debt crisis? Would it still be successful if debt crisis and reduction of patronage pool did not take place? 5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top community organizing? Could we reconcile their differences? How will we make people pursue long-term political goals (i.e. democratization) without necessarily providing material needs (e.g. in the case of UCI, leaders and members framed democracy with when services are given for the benefit of all citizens [p. 146])? Should this framing be inevitable to elicit popular support? What if people do not have trust in the electoral system? (pp. 189-190) How will organizers, and the government, build trust for a system that is entrapped in a web of clientelism, globalization, and international political and economic agencies and contingencies, coated with hegemonic neoliberal ideology? 6. To what extent is party affiliation/group identification (exclusive) opposed to the language of right (inclusive) of protests and social movements? Are they necessarily opposed to each other? Shefner, in reference to Piven and Cloward (1997), tried to explain the demobilization that ensued after UCI became identified with PRD [including demobilization that happened within the latter]: channeling popular protest into electoral venues co-opts leaders, quieted calls for greater economic inclusion, and generated internal power struggles in the place of the pursuit of the constituents agenda (p. 199). CIVIL SOCIETY IN LATIN AMERICA: PARTICIPATORY CITIZENS OR SERVICE PROVIDERS? By Evelina Dagdino (2010) 1. Participation and citizenship, as promoted by governments with neoliberal policies, became individualized and instrumental, hence not collective and genuine. How will organizers bring sustained collective participation and contestation back in in the age of globalization and neoliberal hegemony? If [t]his model obviously requires a willing disposition on the part of the state to share some of its power, and relies on a strongly organized civil society (Dagdino, 2010, p. 30; emphasis mine)? Should this imply that the formal state structure has the last say on these matters (especially if civil society became highly atomized, with occasional and less organized mobilization)? Should we be expecting for the upcoming death of collective participation and state-guaranteed citizenship rights? 2. On the governments promotion of the Third Sector and entrepreneurial foundations: To what extent is the provision of goods and services by civic organizations depoliticizing beneficiaries (i.e. by the latter being contented with what they have been receiving)? To what extent are civil society groups contributing to the legitimation of the gradual abandonment of the government and corporations of their social responsibilities? e.g. in education (i.e. that state universities should rely on income generating projects and some corporate engagements) and housing problems (e.g. Gawad Kalinga). Should vibrancy of civil society be necessarily measured in terms of contestation? Why? Prepared by: John N. Abletis, MA Sociology Student Socio 226, August 26, 2011, 4-7pm

Shefner observed that in other extended periods of neoliberal adjustment, opportunities for alternative political organzing may instead close, as household are forced to seek other strategies for survival rather than pursuing social change (p. 197).