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This part is complemented by a critical discussion of the attempts at interpreting the political processes in Africa which have to date been made in the social sciences, denouncing their sometimes flagrant inadequacies. These developments have been as varied as they have been contradictory. They have also constituted a major source of challenge to political theory as different schools of thought grapple with them in terms of their weight and meaning.

As can be imagined, there is no consensus on the most appropriate approach for interpreting the changes that are taking place in the structure, content and dynamics of African politics; indeed, efforts at conceptualizing the changes have produced a veritable Tower of Babel, with commentators not only speaking in different tongues but frequently past one another. The sense of confusion which is prevalent in the literature is indicative as much of the complexity of the changes themselves as of the crisis of theory in the study of Africa Mkandawire, , ; Zeleza, ; Mamdani, The contradictoriness of the changes, at once inspiring hope and generating despair, has polarized the scholarly and policy communities into Afro-optimist and Afro-pessimist camps.

But for all the insights which they may offer into the problems and prospects of progressive change in Africa, both the Afro-pessimist and Afro-optimist frames are far too simplistic and subjective to serve as an enduring basis for capturing the dialectics of socio-political change and transformation. A more careful, historically grounded interpretation of the changes occurring on the continent is, therefore, needed and for it to be useful, it should enable us to transcend the narrow and narrowing parameters that currently dominate the discourse on the processes and structures of change occurring in contemporary Africa.

They have occurred as much at the level of formal politics as in the arena of the informal processes that underpin the political system. They have also been generated by factors internal to the political system and those external to it, necessitating a close attention to the contexts within which the changes are occurring. Furthermore, while domestic, local and national-level considerations are critical to the definition of the process of change, external factors and international actors also continue to play an important, even, at some conjunctures, determinant role in shaping outcomes.

Understandably, much of the attention which has been focused on political change in Africa has been concentrated on the formal institutions and procedures of politics because these are both more visible and measurable. However, as is the case with politics elsewhere in the world, important as institutions and procedures are, they do not, in and of themselves, tell the whole story. And this can be done without a resort, as Chabal and Daloz do, to stereotyping African politics almost as a domain of abracadabra where the more one sees, the more one gets mystified.

These changes were designed to open up the political space and in so doing, allow for greater competition in the struggle for political power. Afro-optimists have mostly concentrated their attention on the improved prospects for the continent around the re-structuring of the political terrain; some early commentators were even to assess the changes in terms which spoke of a second liberation or an African renaissance. An Afro-barometer project see www.

Afro-pessimists have, in the main, however, read the changes with skepticism, pointing to their shortcomings and the problems of democratic consolidation that persist. Inroads were also made by digital satellite broadcasters and private internet service providers. Mostly set up as non-governmental organisations, they were seen by many as symbolising the re-birth and vital ity of civil society and, therefore, critical to the unfolding process of democratisation on the continent. Equally importantly, the civic associations were seen by some scholars as central to the emergence of new political actors in Africa, actors who, by the fact of their insertion in the civic arena, played the critical role of underwriting the African democratic transition and, thus, contributed to the dawn of a new era in the affairs of the continent Chazan, , ; Bratton, ; Diamond, Beginning with the independence of Zimbabwe in and culminating in the national elections in which the black majority in South Africa participated for the first time, the end of colonial rule and the collapse of formal apartheid unleashed new political forces and possibilities in the countries concerned; within Southern Africa and in the rest of Africa; this development also unleashed new processes and alliances.

If there was a perception that the unfinished business of national liberation prevented African countries from giving full attention to the challenges of overcoming their underdevelopment and dependence, the end of colonial rule and apartheid was interpreted as marking the end of an important phase in the history of the continent and the beginning of a new one in which concerns about African unity and development would pre-dominate.

These principles were, by and large, respected for some 30 years; in the s however, they began seriously to be questioned and challenged in the wake of the crises that engulfed the Great Lakes region of the continent and which culminated in the invasion and occupation of the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC by armies from several African countries. Armed conflicts in a number other countries, most notably Liberia and Sierra Leone, further eroded the principle of non-interference as sub-regional peace-keeping efforts were undertaken in the face of the actual or imminent collapse of central governmental authority.

The position is now broadly established that governments involved in the massive and gross violation are not entitled to enjoy the principle of non-interference in the affairs of their countries. There was also an experiment in Rwanda with the Gatchacha or community-based system of tackling and overcoming the legacy of the genocide which the country suffered. There were various dimensions to this increased profile but perhaps the most prominent are the international war crime tribunals that were established primarily on the ideology of discouraging impunity and sending a strong signal to political actors about the need to respect human rights and internationally established rules of conduct in situations of violent conflict and war.

However, as far as they go, they only cover the obvious processes of change. The youth vote is perhaps the most important, easily recognised aspect of this development, but there is also the emergence into positions of leadership of a generation of politicians who did not directly experience colonial rule and were not directly part of the nationalist anti-colonial coalition. As with the demographic shifts taking place, urbanisation and internal population flows would seem to be challenging many of the assumptions and structures on which post-colonial political governance was built.

The many different questions associated with the process of accelerated urbanisation have been refracted into the political system in the form of contestations around issues of citizenship, individual and group rights and entitlements, the role of the state and the nature of its political and policy capacities, the content and reach of social policy, the secular status of the state, and the entire spectrum of urban governance Sesay, ; Mamdani, ; Mkandawire, The agenda of the anti-colonial nationalist coalition that ush ered African countries into independence constituted the kernel of the social contract on the basis of which policy — political, economic and social — was developed; almost without exception, a central role was reserved for the public sector in what has generally been described as the state-led or state interventionist post-colonial model of accumulation.

It was a model of accumulation which came with its own structure of incentives — of rewards and penalties to which the players in the polity responded for much of the period it lasted, namely, the first two decades of independence. However, the impact of this development for the patterns of politics have not been seriously researched beyond the early efforts which, heavily ideologically-driven by a one-sided pro-market partisanship, were limited to suggestions that the market-based system would produce a new middle class which, drilled in the competitive ways of the market, will pioneer the African transition to a new era of true liberal democracy.

This perspective was connect ed to the view that the emergence of a vibrant civil society, defined as essential to sustainable democratisation, was the flipside of the free market system — as much as liberal democracy itself. The important question of the ways in which the collapse of the state-led model of development, the prolonged socio-economic crises which African countries have experienced and the externally-driven efforts at market reform have produced a new incentive structure and redefined the normative boundaries of politics remains insufficiently researched beyond anecdotal observations.

The key point which is worth keeping in mind at this point is the fact that the dominant methodology that consists of seeking to establish a balance sheet of progress and regression has hardly been helpful in enabling students of contemporary African politics to capture the nuances of change. Often taken in isolation, rather than in their inter-con nectedness, and frequently treated episodically rather than as part of a broader historical flow, the various elements of change are also routinely assessed without an adequate attention to the context within which they are unfolding.

A first step towards redressing the prevalent analytic gaps in the study of contemporary Africa necessitates a discussion of the context within political change is being fashioned and unfolded. Economic crisis and decline, the state of maladjustment of African economies, the expansion of the informal sector, and the erosion of domestic policy autonomy and capacities represent a critical component of the context within which politics is being restructured in Africa.

The end of the Cold War may not have meant the end of history or ideology as was hastily suggested by some commentators; however, it altered an important geo-political factor around which a welter of strategies and interests had mushroomed in the domestic politics of African countries. Post-Cold War African politics involved a complex set of re-alignment of forces and interests in ways which affected the pre-existing patterns of politics. That agenda had the consequence not only of delegitimising the state as an actor in the political economy but also eroding its capacities through a series of retrenchment measures that also served to fuel the brain drain, facilitate the erosion of the domestic policy system, and reduce Africa to the most under-governed region of the world.

Some of the conflicts were carried over from the Cold War period while others derived from grievances deriving from other sources. The most spectacular and tragic of the conflicts had genocidal dimensions to them while in many cases, there was also the collapse of central governmental authority. Furthermore, in what some commentators presented as evidence of a new genre of wars, the conflicts departed from the traditional patterns in which professional armies were pitched against each other.

Also, the widespread recruitment and deployment of child soldiers represented another unique aspect of the conflicts, as did the terror and mayhem which was visited on unarmed civilian populations especially in the rural areas. The process of the constitution of this new Diaspora is recent and still on-going as a wave of professionals, many of them still in their prime, migrate for a variety of reasons to Europe and North America at the same time as many who left temporarily to study abroad also choose to stay back.

Their weight in lobbying around issues of political reform and human rights in their host countries is growing and their voice in the affairs of their home countries reverberates among some important constituencies. It is a mark of their growing influence that a formal recognition has been conferred on them by the African Union. These themes vary in their details but they can be summarised as including the following broad issues:. While the commonality of issues covered might suggest a convergence on the critical markers of change in African political systems, in reality, there is a diversity in the interpretative frames employed for reaching conclusions about the direction of politics.

It is to these competing interpretations to which we now turn attention. Depending on the particular angle or entry point which they choose, scholars working within his broad approach have tended to pitch themselves into an interpretative frame that is either optimistic or pessimistic about the patterns of politics in Africa, their problems and prospects.

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The literature demonstrates a wide spectrum of opinion but the main issues that have emerged to constitute the dominant approach to interpreting African politics and the changes taking place within it can be illustrated with the discussion that has taken place on the socio-economic context of political change and the nature of civil society. Some of the rent-seeking niches are also held to arise from the nature of African economies which have been structured within a state-interventionist model of development that allocates an important role to the exercise of policy discretion, facilitates oligopolistic practices, and discourages the emergence of market-driven pricing regimes.

As to the neo-patromonialist pressures that are considered to be a pervasive, all — encompassing feature of African polities, some of the contributors to the development of this perspective locate the pressures at the level of African society itself while others place the emphasis on the internal workings of the state system. By contrast, the state-centric approach locates the problem of neo-patrimonialism not in the society but in the state itself, pointing to the ways in which the state constitutes a burden on society on account of the politics of predation which it nurtures.

In this connection, various theses of the shadow state or the state within the state have been advanced. Neo-patromoni alist pressures are also fuelled by the insatiable craving of the power elite for popular legitimacy. For this reason, layers and networks of patron-clientelism pervade the entire socio-economic and political system. For, if existing policy frames have failed because of the adverse consequences of the logic of rent-seeking, the economy of affection, the politics of the post-colony, and neo-patrimonialism, reform efforts have also foundered for the same reasons.

Although their intervention was presented as a departure from a euro-centric reading of Africa at work, it did not in fact succeed in going beyond the euro-centrism that was the object of their criticism and in the end, their prognosis was also overwhelmed by a sense of pessimism. The arguments that have been marshalled in this regard are varied but they frequently include the expectation that economic structural adjustment will produce or is producing a new bourgeoisie that is rooted in production and disciplined in the ways of the market as to be in a position to mid-wife a genuine democratic transition in Africa.

Others have suggested that the market reform process has empowered a new generation of technocrats who have become important players not only with regard to the struggle for the rational governance of economies but also the restructuring of the parameters of politics. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the expectation that economic reforms will alter the structure of incentives in favour of rural Africa will not only increase the political weight of the rural populace in the national power equation of African countries but also throw-up new grassroots players who can serve as the voice of the people.

While the bulk of the literature notes the expansion which occurred in the course of the s and s in African associational life, the extent to which civil society represents a new, important arena or vector of politics is very much in contention. These weaknesses are, in part, internal to the framework itself, including the fact that it has been deployed to serve as a universally valid explanation for just about anything and everything, thereby ultimately loosing its analytic value and precision.

As many South Korean scholars have pointed out, the importance of civil society organizations in South Korea lies in the fact that while the transition to democracy has occurred, consolidation of democracy remains an unrealized project to date. Civil groups have developed ideals of shared citizenship and possibilities for democratic leverage. In the last decade, there has been a remarkable acceleration of civil society articulations that criticized existing structures and practices of governance.

Civic groups that pursue public interests have proliferated—not only groups advocating rights of the formerly marginalized, but also groups speaking for broader causes such as environmentalism and other understandings of what is good for society as a whole. The growth of civil society organizations is itself proof that the kind of public space that the government has been either unwilling or unable to handle is rapidly expanding. Specifically, civil society organizations also played a powerful role in the general elections in and As with other civil society organizations, these anti-corruption organizations collect their funds via membership fees, contributions and other fund-raising activities, including funding requests to central and local governments.

This was real change of policy for the government since NGOs had normally been targets of oppression by the authorities concerned. The government also passed a law in January to enable CSOs to get tax-exempted status and discount in postal services. It should be noted, however, that concrete measures to guarantee tax- exempt status has not yet been implemented.

In addition, the Law on Broadcasting also required pubic Korean Broadcasting station to provide 60 minutes a month for programming on NGOs. Even though the third sector in Korea has developed rapidly, most nonprofits are suffering from severe financial difficulties, threatening their sustainability.

Many third sector organizations depend mainly on membership fees that barely cover their working budgets. Some nonprofits are subsidized either by the government or the private sector. However, many third sector organizations prefer to operate without registration because they sometimes perceive freedom from governmental control and regulation is of a greater benefit than the qualification for preferential tax treatment and other benefits available only to the registered third sector organization. Special laws exist that seek to regulate financial contributions to particular civil society organizations or provide for their formation and operation, as well as their special treatment through, such as tax deductions.

These legislative acts govern only a very limited number of CSOs. Most of them are in practice not subject to any of these acts. Japan There has been an explosion of transnational NGOs in Japan in the last two decades as demonstrated by their growth in numbers and size and their increased interaction with and influence over state policy. Some even argue that the growing NGO movement reflects a changing relationship between the state and civil society in Japan.

As the authority of the Japanese developmental state has begun to crumble, it could be argued that the relationship between the state and civil society has become more horizontal. However, this shift has not impacted the domestic civil society scene to the same extent. In fact, the old hierarchical paradigm of the state shaping civil society is very much in place with respect to domestic civil society organizations, which are the focus of this study. From an international perspective the Japanese civil society landscape, particularly their lack of large civil society groups, is surprising.

Japan ranks highly on the two most reliable predictors of the level of development of a nation's civil society; income and education. Anecdotally, Japan is also seen as a country rich in social capital, with a history of civic activism. Why then does Japan have such a unique pattern of civil society development?

The answer lies in the relationship of civil society to the state. Political institutions, including the regulatory framework constructed by the State, indirectly and directly structure the development of civil society. However, the degree with which the state constrains and shapes civil society in Japan is notable. This relationship will be explored as it impacts the number and pattern of growth of civil society organizations, the role of civil society organizations in promoting a democratic agenda in Japan, and the capacity and accountability of such organizations. Regulatory framework The regulatory framework has a direct influence on civil society organizations.

Such direct actions that impact an organization's viability include regulation of a group's legal status or activities, direct financial flows, and tax benefits. Japan has managed their CSOs, or non-profit organizations NGOs when they refer in term of domestically active groups, with the most severe regulatory environment in the developed world.

This begs the question of who decides what is in the public interest. Surprisingly, in Japan the bureaucracy has a legal monopoly on this decision and cannot be legally challenged on this determination.


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Furthermore, Japanese law stipulates that public interest legal person groups can acquire legal status only through the explicit permission of the relevant bureaucratic authority, and grants this authority continuing powers of supervision and administrative guidance. Those groups that are denied legal status or do not pursue legal status for one reason or another face significant and undeniable hurdles in terms of operations.

Conversely, just as it is difficult for independent organizations to grow large in Japan, it is difficult for large groups to remain independent. The mechanics of this pattern can be traced to an institutional arrangement that places significant monitoring reporting and investigating and sanctioning powers various punishments including dissolution of the group in the hands of a single bureaucratic ministry or agency.

Furthermore, the tax incentives are not as generous as in other industrialized democracies. The accounting and finance reporting requirements are considered onerous and often hamper CSOs from applying for legal status. Citizen groups may value independence, but the de facto price of gaining legal status is an agreement to employ ex-bureaucrats of the approving ministry. Pattern of Growth That strict legal framework, limited funding pattern, indirect regulations, and the profile of opportunities that a state's political structure creates for influencing policy—all these factors profoundly affect the development of civil society in Japan.

Japan's civil society supports democracy through social capital generation and community building, but largely lacks the sizeable professional groups that influence the public sphere or policymaking. Benefits do accrue from the constellation of small organizations. Small local groups can help build stocks of social capital and perhaps improve the performance of local governments. They form a crucial basis for social life, but almost always lack a professional staff.

This lack of a professionalized staff is a ubiquitous institutional constraint in that a group that has a core of full-time employees can develop expertise and perhaps influence policy in a manner that is impossible for a small group without such staff. Also, due to their low level of professionalization, including a lack of researchers or media outreach specialists, Japanese civil society groups seldom influence the public sphere compared with groups from other countries.

It is important to note that this is not a value judgment on the Japanese configuration of civil society as the pattern of small civil society organizations sustains democracy through other means. However, as the political environment and the regulatory environment are inexorably linked, a shift in the former has brought about a slightly more open climate for the latter. Under the new legislation, NPOs can be incorporated without the approval process, and the governor of the prefecture where the proposed corporations are located or the Economic Planning Agency in the case of NPOs with offices in at least two prefectures, is required to authenticate establishment of such organizations if they conform with the provisions set forth in the new legislation.

Class Formation, Civil Society and the State

The incorporation process will be much quicker under the new legislation because the granting authorities must decide on the certification within two months immediately succeeding the two-month period of public announcement. There is no requirement in the incorporation process for the holding of assets.

Under the new legal system, starting in December nonprofit organizations will no longer need to operate on the basis of authorization from the government ministry or agency with jurisdiction over their field of activities. In addition to existing nonprofits, any organization, regardless of whether it has a charitable purpose, will be allowed to file for this legal designation as long as it can claim not to operate in the pursuit of profit.


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This means that this category will likely end up including organizations with three general purposes: 1 organizations that operate in the general public interest; 2 ones that benefit a specified class of people, such as alumni organizations and professional associations; and 3 organizations that benefit private entities, potentially including ones controlled by companies or wealthy individuals and used like trusts to safeguard and transfer assets.

In , a private sector advisory council convened by the minister of administrative reform recommended the creation of a new, independent entity to play this role. However, the law eventually submitted by the government instead mandated the creation of a Public Interest Corporation Commission koekininteitouiinkai under the jurisdiction of the Cabinet Office to serve as the competent authority. There are both skeptics and optimists among the nonprofit experts and practitioners following these reforms.

Meanwhile, public interest corporations that automatically received tax privileges upon incorporation are now worried about how high the new threshold will be for authorization as an organization serving the public interest and thus for exemption from corporate income taxes and other special tax treatment.

Many also worry about the administrative burden of re- registering and restructuring their boards in order to meet potential new requirements as well as the additional work posed by heightened requirements for governance and information disclosure.

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Unlike the United States—where foreign aid is a peripheral political issue—in Japan, ODA is the central foreign policy issue facing the government and the public. Since , Japan has been the single largest aid donor in the world, and has used overseas aid as its principal mechanism for gaining global economic and political influence.

While this is inherently an inter-state political issue, the manner in which aid is directed and the driving forces behind aid flows illustrate much about the state of domestic civil society engagement. One of the most striking features has been the increase in the last two decades of NGOs devoted to international aid and development. Associated with this international focus has been the adoption by many Japanese NGOs of the international aid communities' conception of sustainable human development, as well as increased preference for grassroots-based development in the social sector.

Furthermore, in the domestic political scene they are the main proponents of aid programs that address human, environmental, and social concerns in the developing world.

Civil Society, Political Society and the Reproduction of Class Structures

The implications for state-NGO relations is that state officials now take NGO movements more seriously and has created a more active dialogue between the state and NGOs. First, their small size and flexible administration allow them to avoid the complex procedures and politics that typically slow government decisions. While the state bureaucracy often takes several years to launch a new program, Japanese NGOs can initiate a new program with greater speed and ease. A second strength of NGOs is their reputation.

The public has a dramatically different attitude towards NGO members, who are seen as selfless and sincere, than they do towards politicians and bureaucrats, who have been tainted with corruption scandals. A third strength, related to their positive perception, is the excellent grassroots ties and involvement of many NGOs. The grassroots connections of many Japanese NGOs are enhanced by the value systems that permeate many such aid and development focused organizations. Implications Japanese civil society took a different trajectory that South Korea.

If we compare thedemocratic transition it would be a replacement in Japan under US control versus the slowpolitical turn over in South Korea Hayes, Unlike Korea, there was no previous organization of people or momentum toorganize against the government; therefore, we observe less activity in terms of civilsociety groups.

This situation is not helped by the legal environment for civilorganization—it is a strict regulatory model with narrow categories of organizations thatmay obtain legal status. When comparing both South Korea and Japan the method of organization differssubstantially for two similar democracies that share many cultural values. In Korea thetransition involved protesting by students, blue-collar workers, and white- collar workers.

By organizing multiple sectors of society for a single cause to force political change themomentum continued into the s. As such these groups reorganized to lobby foreconomic and environmental changes to benefit the public. Civil society groups became independent from the government, butbecause of government restrictions on official organization many groups cannot organizeor grow without government help.

Also the lack of a previous political movement andknowledge about such organization contributes to the problem. Such organization is smaller, easier toorganize, and more effective in achieving goals. References: Hayes, Louis D. Introduction to Japanese Politics. Armonk, NY: M. Hardacre, H. Religion and Civil Society in Contemporary Japan. Japanese Journal ofReligious Studies31, no. Kihl, Young Whan. Armonk,NY: M. Kim, H. Kim, I. Defining Nonprofit Sector in Korea. Kim, J. Korea Journal of Public Administration, Vol.

Piet Konings | African Studies Centre Leiden

Korea Journal of Public Administration. Koto, Y. On the Theories of Civil Society. Encyclopedia of Modern Sociology, pp. Edited by Takayoshi Kitagawa. PublicAffairs UBC 66, no. Lowry, C. East-West Center, Honolulu. Oh, John Kie. Korean politics: the quest for democratization and economic development. Ithaca, N. Pekkanen, Robert. Japan's dual civil society: members without advocates. Stanford University Press.