Chapter 7: Civil Society and Distributional Conflicts in Southeast Asia
7. Civil society and distributional conflicts in Southeast Asia1 Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt For too long Western rights advocates have tended to equate social progress with the growth of a welfare state, measuring commitment by gross social spending FEER, 23 June 1994: 5 There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families. Margaret Thatcher, 1987 With the end of the Cold War, civil society together with democracy and the market became the new global denominators for neo-liberal change and more or less a panacea for virtually all the problems in both South and North: ‘In the world of ideas, civil society is hot. It is almost impossible to read an article on foreign or domestic policy without coming across some mention of the concept’ (Zakaria, 1995). The sentiments of euphoria about civil society were almost omni-present in the new international ideological agenda and in most cases presented as a new type of ‘anti-politics’: it became part and parcel of the doublespeak intended to impose a mental and ideological colonization of the world by introducing new categories intended to present a harmonious world and depoliticize social change (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 2001: 2–5; Hersh, 2004: 3–19). Aiding in the rise in popularity of civil society was the movement from authoritarian to more democratic regime forms all over the globe. This was observable not only in the former Soviet-type socialist societies, but also in Taiwan, South Korea, Brazil and Central America, and in almost all of subSaharan Africa, where...
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