Characteristics of Civil Society

These three systems and three principles combine to articulate nine measurable characteristics of civil society.

“The Commons”

Civil society is advanced when citizens share a social right of access to the commonwealth of resources produced, used, and exchanged through natural and social economies in a community and through a society. Access, in this context, includes the abilities both to contribute to the resources and to benefit from them. Broad, community-based civic engagement in economic activities occurs in the arena of what is historically called “the Commons,” as in the Greek agora and the English market. As citizens participate in the open exchange of commonwealth resources, they can form and strengthen social connections and networks with others.


Civil society is advanced when citizens can exercise their civic duty of self-governance by participating in political structures that exhibit decentralized power and authority. Community-based civic engagement in political governance exists when community members have the opportunity to hold positions or “offices” of public decision-making and leadership.


Civil society is advanced when citizens can openly and voluntarily participate in diverse social affiliations, groups, networks, and structures for self-governance and social transformation. “Association” refers to those social places where people gather and interact with others to exchange ideas, offer support, and receive a sense of belonging. Community-based civic engagement in systems of social exchange exists when diverse social groups and gatherings are present and permeable.


Civil society is advanced when citizens hold decision-making power, work to strengthen and improve local and regional economies, and exercise sustainable and socially transparent stewardship of societal resources (e.g., human, social, material, and ecological) on behalf of the “common good.” Community-based activities of civic responsibility in systems of economic development exist when citizens enjoy the legitimate authority of resource trusteeship.


Civil society is advanced when citizens have the right to be involved in all aspects of political governance and the authority to make decisions and perform actions affecting all levels of public life, without the institutions of public life being “captured” by the interests of specific groups or individuals. The presence and legitimacy of community-based civic authority through systems of political governance increase the ability of citizens to exercise sovereignty over policies and programs that can positively affect their lives and the quality of life in their community.


Civil society is advanced when citizens, acting through community-based groups and associations, are able to use basic civic freedoms and rights (e.g., fair elections, free speech, a free press providing access to information, freedom to organize in groups) to hold economic and political actors responsible for the outcomes of policies, programs and patterns of resource distribution, and the exercise of political power.


Civil society is advanced when each citizen is given equitable access to and use of resources required for constructing a satisfying life. A moral condition of equity forms the foundation of activities that expand and strengthen economic conditions for all community members. Economic equity of resources is necessary for producing and sustaining an improved quality of life for all people, especially the poor.


Civil society is advanced when citizens pursue social justice by (1) consistently and compassionately using the “rule of law” in fulfillment of their civic obligations, and (2) advocating for those excluded from the political process and harmed by unjust laws. In classical Greek thought, justice was accomplished by having people serve the city-state according to their status by birth. Gender, merit, rank, and wealth all were criteria for the role one was expected to play in the society, whether citizen or non-citizen. If the social order became disrupted, "justice" was accomplished by restoring people to their former positions of power and status. Unfortunately, the practice of justice according to this particular "rule of law" allowed previous inequalities to continue. The disenfranchised remained excluded after the work of justice. Contemporary views of citizenship and justice reflect these classical ideas in their adherence to a rule of law that is based on the ethical norms of society, but the particular ethical norms have largely shifted. In the United States, the bases of citizenship and political participation have changed. Heredity, wealth, and social position have given way to the unalienable right of common citizenship legitimized by the Constitution. A law or policy is considered unjust if it is unconstitutional or contrary to the democratically formed rule of law.


Civil society is advanced when citizens (1) pursue social transformation through reciprocal, mutually dependent collaboration with others, and (2) negotiate, mediate, and resolve conflict through peaceful, nonviolent means. The nature of civic environments requires that social relationships in communities be limited and conditional. Not everyone in a society is invariably viewed as a legitimate member and given equal access to its resources. The term reciprocity highlights two interrelated moral issues of social relationships: how people to treat one another, especially when conflict exists; and how group boundaries are defined and transcended.

Post-reading activities:

1. Explain underlined terms and expressions.

2. Discuss how the article presents the concept of “civil society”.

3. Examine the text in Russian provided below, which is a compilation of reflections by Lyudmila Alexeeva. Taking her views into account and drawing on the principles of civil society, describe how such a phenomenon is treated in Russia.

4. Prepare a mini-presentation on non-governmental organizations in Russia.

Text for rendering (Lumila Alexeeva)

Мне нередко задают вопрос о перспективах Движения-31. Мне трудно на него ответить, потому что ответ должен включать в себя две составляющие: как поведут себя граждане и как поведет себя власть. И то и другое можно оценивать лишь предположительно. Единственно возможный ход рассуждений должен опираться на историю развития Движения-31. А оно уже имеет историю, потому что продолжается более года, заявки на митинг на Триумфальной площади в защиту статьи 31 нашей Конституции за этот срок подавались одиннадцать раз. Рассмотрим, как развивалось Движение-31 с точки зрения участия в нем граждан. Первая заявка была подана Эдуардом Лимоновым перед 31 января прошлого года. Он получил отказ, но тем не менее его сторонники вышли на Триумфальную площадь и были разогнаны. Митинги эти были немноголюдными и не вызывали никакого резонанса в обществе. В июле Лимонов обратился ко мне. Он надеялся, что участие в акции правозащитников сделает ее приемлемой для властей. Ведь нам в отличие от него довольно часто удается согласовать с властями наши мероприятия. 31 августа 2009 года я впервые участвовала в этой акции в качестве наблюдателя вместе со Львом Пономаревым и коллегами из Молодежного правозащитного движения. Благодаря участию правозащитников акция на Триумфальной впервые освещалась в российских и зарубежных СМИ и стала заметным событием. Но тем самым мы невольно привлекли и внимание властей. Триумфальная площадь оказалась наводнена милицией, ОМОНом, которые отмобилизовались так, будто Москве угрожает захват какой-то хунты. Участников было не так уж много, всех впечатлило именно скопление противопоставленных им сил. Журналисты сообщали в основном об этом.
После 31 августа я согласилась быть в числе заявителей митинга. Но надежды на то, что власть согласится на его проведение, если среди заявителей будет председатель всемирно известной Московской Хельсинкской группы, не оправдались. Нам по-прежнему предложили провести митинг на бульваре Шевченко или на Болотной площади, но не на Триумфальной. Хотя в заявке мы подчеркивали, что хотим создать традицию, и поэтому для нас принципиально важно, чтобы митинг всегда проводился на Триумфальной. Поскольку предоставить нам это место городские власти отказались, мы публично заявили, что митинг проводить не будем. Это значит, что не будем использовать звукоусиливающую аппаратуру, не будет знамен и плакатов, но, чтобы укрепить традицию, мы выйдем на Триумфальную площадь с бейджиками или стикерами “Статья 31 Конституции РФ” или просто “31” и молча постоим там какое-то время. Ведь этого никакой закон не запрещает. Идея сработала. Начиная с 31 октября прошлого года постоянно увеличивалось количество тех, кто приходил в этот день и час на Триумфальную площадь, несмотря на то что для многих это оборачивалось задержанием, подчас очень грубым, и административным судом. Идею площади поддержали Московская Хельсинкская группа, правозащитный центр “Мемориал”, Всероссийское движение за права человека, молодежная организация “Оборона” и оппозиционное движение “Солидарность”. Начиная с 31 января нынешнего года акции в защиту статьи 31 Конституции в тот же день стали проходить в других российских городах и даже за рубежом. А с мая мы стали писать в своих заявках не, как прежде, что “мы хотим создать традицию”, а что “уже существует традиция”. Все больше российских граждан сознают необходимость защиты статьи 31 Конституции РФ. На площадь выходят люди, ни в каких акциях протеста прежде не участвовавшие. Это люди разного возраста и социального положения, но все они ощущают наступление властей на конституционные права граждан и готовы ему противостоять. В ходе одного из недавних опросов на тему, какое событие последней недели вы считаете самым важным, на первом месте (24%) был ответ: события 31 августа на Триумфальной площади; для сравнения, вояж Владимира Путина на “Ладе Калине” сочли самым важным событием недели 17% опрошенных. Можно утверждать, что традиция защиты конституционных прав успешно привилась. А следовательно, можно прогнозировать, что эту традицию будет поддерживать все большее количество граждан и в Москве, и в других городах. И что международная поддержка Движения-31 будет усиливаться. Теперь рассмотрим реакцию на эту тенденцию со стороны властей. Каждое 31-е число Триумфальную площадь и окрестности заполняют крытые грузовики и автобусы, доставляющие сюда милиционеров, а также автобусы, которые загружают задержанными для доставки их в отделения милиции. Там на них составляют протоколы как на нарушивших общественный порядок и направляют эти протоколы в районные суды. Представьте, какие огромные человеческие и денежные ресурсы расходуются на эти цели. Но только устрашающими акциями дело не ограничивается. Каждый раз власти создают видимость занятости площади другими мероприятиями, но все это выглядит неубедительно, порой до комичности. Так, 31 августа прошлого года площадь была занята якобы соревнованиями велосипедистов, а на самом деле там крутили педали велотренажеров два неспортивного вида толстяка. 31 декабря 2009 года заявили на Триумфальной предновогоднее народное гулянье, но при этом огородили елку так, что подойти к ней было невозможно. К тому же в суде, куда заявители обратились с жалобой на незаконность отказа в проведении акции, выяснилось, что в момент подачи нашей заявки не было постановления властей о проведении массового гулянья. И суд признал незаконным отказ в проведении митинга. А 31 марта и 31 мая нынешнего года выдумка оказалась еще глупее: заявили, что прокремлевские молодежные организации будут собирать на площади кровь у доноров. Но люди, отправившиеся туда добровольно сдавать кровь, обнаружили, что в палатке, установленной для этой цели, им готовы определить группу крови, не более того. В эти же дни на Триумфальной проводились демонстративно многолюдные сборища “Молодой гвардии” с речами, песнями, плясками, с гремящими репродукторами. Нам же по-прежнему оставалась узкая полоска по периметру ограды. После 31 мая, когда там собралось особенно много самых разных людей, происходящее, похоже, заинтересовало федеральные власти. Я имею в виду Администрацию Президента. По всей видимости, оттуда была дана отмашка избежать позорного противостояния силовиков гражданам, мирно защищающим свое конституционное право. Со стороны властей была сделала попытка предоставить нам возможность провести митинг на Триумфальной площади, но переговоры начались в последние дни перед подачей заявки, велись они наспех, обе стороны не проявили договороспособности, и времени как-то отрегулировать ситуацию не хватило. В результате площадь, опять-таки наспех, отдали под соревнование каких-то очень шумных автомобилей, которым место только на стадионах. А нас опять оттеснили на узкую полоску по периметру площади. Наконец, 17 августа, на следующий день после подачи нашей очередной заявки, власти заявили, что под Триумфальной площадью будут строить подземный паркинг. Однако в долгосрочных планах развития города это строительство не значится, а специалисты говорят, что там рыть никак нельзя — все уже занято метро и подземными коммуникациями. Тем не менее всю площадь огородили. Видимо, надолго. К тому же власти, похоже, твердо решили, что традиция гражданской защиты Конституции опасна для их благополучия, и пойти навстречу гражданам в этом их абсолютно мирном стремлении не намерены. К чему приведет это противостояние власти и общества? Лично я прогнозировать не берусь. Давайте думать об этом вместе.

Topic 6: Women in politics

Text 1

Pre-reading activity:

1. Discuss what you know about the change in the role of women in politics around the world and your country.

The world's most powerful women

Germany has ushered in its first female chancellor, the US is gearing up for an all-woman presidential battle - so, wonders Mary Dejevsky, is sex no longer a political issue? Plus, Anne Penketh introduces the exclusive club of female national leaders. Angela Merkel's confirmation as Germany's next chancellor has been a struggle every inch of the way. It's taken more than three weeks of hard bargaining, even though her party had won the election. It's also required her to sacrifice a large part of her electoral manifesto, and left her presiding over a cabinet in which her majority amounts to her one casting vote. With Merkel's elevation to the chancellery, however, comes one immediate and undisputed privilege: membership of the world's most exclusive club. Even now, in the 21st century, the number of national leaders who are women is only just into double figures. Ever since her prospects of taking Germany's top job were first mooted, Merkel has been adamant that she should not be compared to Margaret Thatcher. "I'm a physicist, she's a chemist," she began briskly when I asked her the obvious question earlier this year. But the comparison is unavoidable. Margaret Thatcher - who has just celebrated her 80th birthday - has set the standard by which all who come after her shall be judged. Thatcher survived every ordeal that the men's world set for her. She mastered each and every portfolio they placed in front of her. She outfoxed the men in political strategy; she outlasted them in stamina and showed a steelier backbone than they did when she dispatched the Navy to recapture the Falkland Islands and told George Bush senior not to "go wobbly" over Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. At the same time, she managed to meet most of the men's expectations of women. She was married, with twins. She could look domestic or glamorous as required. She could flirt if she chose, and she was partial to a whisky or two in the Downing Street flat out of hours. Her feminine side was the ultimate weapon she could use to disarm adversaries. Venus or Mars, "soft power" or "hard power", Mrs Thatcher could deploy either or both as required. This is what it takes to be the consummate woman leader, even now. Most women leaders past or present have fallen short in one aspect or other. How resistant German voters were to the prospect of a woman chancellor is hard to quantify. Merkel is not a natural campaigner; she made tactical mistakes. But her failure to meet the demands of German voters for both male and female traits was arguably one reason why her predicted landslide did not materialise. Some women felt that she had let her sex down by behaving too much like one of the boys. "She's a man making it in a man's world. We don't recognise the woman in her," several independent-minded women told me during the campaign. Others - including Chancellor Schroeder's wife, supposedly speaking as a journalist rather than spouse-supporter - suggested her life experience was incomplete because she does not have children. She had reluctantly bowed to the pressure of the Christian Democrat hierarchy by marrying her long-time partner before being elected head of the party. But for her childlessness to become an election issue - as it did - reflected both the conservatism of German society, where mothers still tend not to work, and her own reluctance to hit back smartly in her own defence. This was one time, critical supporters agreed, when she heeded a feminine instinct she might have done better to ignore.

Surveying those currently in national leadership positions around the world, a variation on the old axiom still holds as true of women as of men. Some are born to leadership; some achieve leadership; and some have it thrust upon them. Down the years, very many women, not only the crowned heads of Europe, owe their leadership positions to their birth. Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia and Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines come to mind, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi, prevented by the military dictatorship from becoming leader of Burma. Others owe their elevation to marriage and early widowhood: they had leadership thrust upon them, and in many cases proved more than equal to the task. Eva Peron, Corazon Aquino and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, head the list. More unusual is Sonia Gandhi, who had leadership thrust upon her and chose to delegate it.

Merkel is one of those women - rare in the past (Golda Meir comes to mind), but now increasing in number - who has risen to national leadership largely by her own efforts. Which is to say, by a similar combination of expertise, chance, ambition and patronage as most male politicians. The key, though, is patronage from within the existing establishment. Today, outside the Scandinavian countries where women are now becoming a determining part of the establishment, that still means the patronage of men, commonly in political parties or - for some of those who emerged in the post-Communist states of Europe - the trade unions. It was Conservative power-brokers, such as Airey Neave, who helped Margaret Thatcher to power. Merkel was the protégé of Helmut Kohl, hailed as one of the great chancellors for presiding over the peaceful reunification of his country. Another ingredient, not unique to women, but often helpful, is the frequency with which their abilities or ambitions are underestimated. Both Merkel and Thatcher were initially merely tolerated as leaders of their respective parties because they were deemed harmless and the men judged that their time at the helm would be short-lived. With Thatcher, the rest was history. With Merkel, the next few months should show. But woe betide a strong woman without a sturdy armour of patronage. Ask Segolene Royal in France. Royal, long-time partner of the Socialist Party leader, mother of his children, but also a former minister and an impressive politician in her own right, was bold enough to suggest she might entertain a bid for the French presidency next time around. The catcalls resounded loud and long. Through most of the Western world women can now rise to ministerial level without raising eyebrows, national leadership, however, is another matter.

Even the United States, with all its equality provisions and affirmative-action programmes, has not cracked it. This is the country described by Madeleine Albright, its first female secretary of state, as "standing tall and seeing further into the future" than others. So when will it elect a woman president? Election, to be fair to US voters, is probably less of a problem than securing the party nomination. This is where all the "good ol' boy" back-slapping and fund-raising demands come into play that were so consummately met by the younger George Bush. But there is a third requisite, of course, and this is the perceived ability to win. The US media are already salivating over the prospects of a contest in 2008 that would guarantee a woman president. Senior Republicans are terrified at the prospect of Hillary Clinton heading the Democratic ticket. Their response? To fuel expectations that the current Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will run for the Republicans. Both have several 2008 websites in their name, set up by well-wishers. Both hold jobs that, if they were men, would be thought of as springboards for the White House. Both meet almost every requirement for nomination; both are highly competent and ambitious. As for patronage, you could hardly do better than Bill Clinton, on the one hand, and the whole Bush clan on the other.Ms Rice's disadvantage is that she has never run for office and she has so far kept her private life private. Mrs Clinton's is the opposite: her liabilities - chiefly Bill - are well known and repel as many voters as they draw. But this would be fantasy-politics for real. Imagine a Hillary v Condi debate: two articulate and astutely political women; blonde v brunette; white Democrat v black Republican. With either of these women, the biggest question may be less whether America is ready for a female president than whether either really nurtures a burning ambition to run. Ms Clinton seems genuinely in two minds. Ms Rice, unidentified "friends" are quoted as saying, would wait to be "drafted", rather than put herself forward. Like many men who have ascended the greasy poll so far, they might just decide they have better things to do.

Post-reading activities:

1. Explain underlined words and expressions.

2. Point to the main themes raised in the article and offer your views as you agree or disagree with the evaluation of the women’s situation in politics presented in the article.

3. Prepare mini-presentations about the history of feminism in the world and a Russian female politician (think about her life principles, character, political views, support and the level of popularity currently).

Text 2

Pre-reading notes:In this assignment, you are asked to gloss over several quotes selected from various speeches of female activists and provide your commentary.

Margaret Thatcher

Former Prime Minister
of Great Britain

"I knew the prejudices against women in the top job and I think we look too much at women and men in come to a certain time and you look at the personalities available and their policies. And that's how women get on - right personality, right capability, and right place at the right time."

Mary Robinson

United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights

"I think that times are changing. For example I … appointed a women judge of high court and present at the ceremony was the woman minister of justice and it was the attorney general who was the only man - providing some gender balance as I told him. And these changes are taking place and I certainly am a woman in a position of authority who wants to be a role model if I can and to encourage and very much to stimulate a sense of confidence and a sense of assuming responsibility."

Emma Bonino

Member of European Parliament
for Italy

"I really refused since the beginning to be labelled again only on the responsibility of Health, Education or the so-called more feminine field; so I've been trying not to be trapped another time on the same cliché that are applied to women. So "well you've joined politics, ok, you've been elected in parliament, ok, we must accept you but please go back to your Health Committee or Education Committee" seemed to me another cliché which I simply refused."

Mo Mowlam

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