Is the civil Society the ‘big idea’ for the twenty-first century, or will the idea of the civil society-confused, corrupted or captured by elites- prove another false horizon in the search for a better world? This is a question Michael Edwards (Director of the Ford Foundation’s Governance and Civil Society Program) in his book Civil Society, puts forward to all of us who value the social- economic and political emancipatory role, explanatory power and practical support of the civil society.
And Malawi is not exceptional. The most times, we are locked in the social-economic and political problems, tendentiously; we look up to the civil society as the only power that has the undoubted potential to liberate us from those chains. As such, the civil society is sanctified and sometimes goes unquestionable for every action it takes. There role of the civil society in Malawi, in helping pushing government to take action in solving the pertinent problems ranging from that of the economy and governance is measured from the results it had borne. The now crumbled democracy that we attained in 1994 is the most visible fruit of the role of civil society.
And other changes in the Republican Constitutionthe enactment of laws that protect human rights and freedoms are also fruits of the same civil society. The civil society taken at a broader level, had also played many roles in uplifting the welfare of human lives in form of providing supplementary social services; in education, health and other sectors. The civil society’s efforts at raising humanity to a better world cannot be stated in simple or reductive terms.
The civil society’s role in development is crucial. However, the civil society has become a ‘notoriously slippery concept’ used to justify radically different ideological agendas, supported by deeply ambiguous evidence and suffused with many questionable assumptions. And faced by these ambiguities, it is tempting to view the concept as hopelessly compromised, when subjected to a rigorous critique.
This is an observation that Karl Marx (German philosopher-1818-1883) makes in his political-social analysis of the German political condition. Marx also makes another observation and poses a question that; mainly, the civil society has the dominant role of criticizing the government agenda and does not directly help in solving those problems.
The fuel and forex shortages, poor governance and academic freedom saga are identified clear failures of this government. In face of these failures, the civil society only rushes to criticize, blame or simply bash the government for its failure.