The Civility of Oppression

In 1989, the fall of the Berlin wall was interpreted as a victory of “civil societies” over bureaucratic and authoritarian Communist states. In the months and years that followed, programs for the democratization of the former popular republics counted on this new, rather vague and imprecise collective actor, to liberalize and reform centralized state apparatuses. The notion of civil society – used in a sense freely inspired by political philosophy and updated to a 1970s context that viewed it as the ensemble of social initiatives acting as a counter weight to state domination1  – was appropriated by a wide variety of actors and institutions involved in programs of democratic transition: States and international organizations, enterprises and associations, the media, academies, etc.

However, this multiple and globalized appropriation of the idea of civil society did not automatically bring about the much hoped for development of liberal democracies2 . In the post-cold war world, contrary to initial expectations, authoritarian hybridizations invented themselves in Africa, Europe, America and Asia, many governments thus boasting their cooperation with representatives of ‘civil society’ as a way to legitimize themselves. In the eyes of critical sociologists these unorthodox appropriations meant the emergence of new forms of political domination and new disciplines in the contemporary world3 . In the end, says Jean-François Bayart, civil society is no more than a ‘pidgin’ word, “an engineering of international relations that allows actors of a heterogeneous world to globalize together”4 .

Beyond this critique, in what terms should we think of the irregular uses of a notion so consensual? Actors who believe in civil society underscore its civilizing virtues; as a common reference for state or public representatives, it expresses the desire to pacify radicalisms, erase political confrontation and seek compromise. An analysis of uses such as these leads invariably to a reflection on the softening of political relations taking place in reference to civil society, along with a possible fading away of critique in a new ‘civility of oppression’5 .

Democratic consensus around the idea of civil society

In the cooperation programs of international organizations, the existence of a civil society, generally defined as the ensemble of nonprofit intermediary groups able to counterbalance state power, is considered a necessary, even sufficient condition for the functioning of democratic states. Consensus around the notion brings together partisans of both liberal democracy and market capitalism. Thanks to such support, civil society has become the ‘soft concept’ of democratic decorum that it would be undiplomatic to criticize in Western public space6  it has become a common reference able to federate numerous groups and persons demanding a place in the world of civilian life and the market7 . In recently modernized industrial societies, it constitutes a point where state actors and citizens converge.

This appropriation appears that much easier as it is based on the heterogeneity of a notion “of which no one has the monopoly, either of its definition or its representation”: in fact, the content of this category varies with the interactions of the actors who make use of it8 . To simplify, it generally refers to the world of non-governmental organizations. In post-Soviet Russia, an example we propose in support of the following argument, the idea of civil society was imported in the context of democratization and market transition programs that began in the early 1990s at the time of the break with the Soviet experience. Since then, it has become a commonly used reference in Russian public space and continues to exist even now in the new authoritarian project.

Political consensus

During the 20th century, the idea of civil society remained for a long time on the sidelines, superseded by development models focused on the state and dominated by Marxist and liberal conceptions of social change and development9 . In Western Europe, the rehabilitation of the idea is a relatively recent phenomenon dating from the 1960s and 1970s10 . Borrowed from political philosophy, it began to appear in the vocabulary of the press, of politics and associations. Conceived as an ensemble of social practices capable of limiting state power and legitimized by a critique of bureaucratic structures, the idea of civil society was appropriated by non-totalitarian socialists – partisans of self-government, in particular, considered it a space for real, effective social life, through associations and citizens’ groups – and liberals (or neo-liberals) alike11 .

The delegation from a provincial city on the Red Square, in Moscow, in 1956.

The delegation from a provincial city on the Red Square, in Moscow, in 1956.

In the East of Europe, the reference to civil society became a rallying concept for anti-Communist militants intending to engage in ‘non-political politics’12  – strategies that were crowned by the success of massive mobilizations in the streets of the capitals of central-Eastern Europe leading to the collapse of Communist regimes. Following the fall of the Berlin wall, the approval surrounding the idea extended to the whole of a world from then on united in a common economic and political project with the possibility of an ‘end to it all’. Though this did not come to pass, the concept of civil society – owing to its connection with critiques of the notion of ‘democratic transition,’ continued to prevail13 . It remained the symbol of an ideal collective engagement to be encouraged.

The market consensus

The notion of civil society is also intimately related to new capitalism. Although Western democracies tend to see civil society as a regeneration of political life, in the East the notion comprises not only civil and political liberties but also private property and the market14 .

Vladimir I. Lénine, « Le parti socialiste et le révolutionnarisme sans parti » (décembre 1905)

 

« L’esprit sans-parti est l’expression du caractère bourgeois de notre révolution. La bourgeoisie ne peut pas manquer de souhaiter une absence de l'esprit de parti chez ceux qui se battent pour la liberté de la société bourgeoise. […] Dans une société fondée sur la division en classes, la lutte entre les classes antagonistes devient inévitablement une lutte politique qui se traduit par une lutte de partis. Faire preuve d’esprit sans – parti c’est être indifférent à la lutte des partis. Cette indifférence n’équivaut pas à la neutralité, car il ne peut y avoir de neutres dans une lutte de classe. Elle est un appui tacite donné au plus fort. […] Dans une société bourgeoise, être sans parti, c’est dissimuler hypocritement l’adhésion passive au parti des exploiteurs. L’indépendance envers le parti est une idée bourgeoise ; l’idée de parti est socialiste ».

Lénine devant une foule de soldats en partance pour la Pologne, à Moscou, le 5 mai 1920.

Lénine devant une foule de soldats en partance pour la Pologne, à Moscou, le 5 mai 1920.

The development of non-state liberal institutions (the market and civil society) necessarily leads to the reform of planned economies. Pro-active programs are put in place to further the advent of a middle class, made up of small landowners and investors capable of supporting both democracy and the free market. Civil society representatives are called on to take over for the state, which thus externalizes its non-sovereign functions. International institutions, especially multilateral funders, depend on these actors (private companies, cooperatives, associations run by the Church, by NGOs) to accelerate development and short-circuit the state15 . The promotion of civil society, for example, is omnipresent in the discourse of the World Bank, in the context of strategies for the fight against poverty and the empowerment of populations, leading to a reduction in state function as well as the development of replacement initiatives on an economic and social level.

The construction of a civil society in post-Soviet Russia

In Russia, the notion of ‘civil society’, used by Lenin as a synonym for ‘bourgeois society’, was absent from Soviet vocabulary in its anti-authoritarian sense until the end of the 1980s, with Gorbachev’s perestroika. This does not mean there were no critiques of Soviet power in the society; they only used, and were designated by other terms. Various forms of clandestine protest were known as ‘dissidence’, and more precisely, as an indigenous category – inakomisliachies, those who think differently – or by the notion of ‘sedition’. After the fall of the Berlin wall, militant milieus challenging the monopoly of the State/Party appropriated the term ‘civil society’ and abandoned ‘dissidence’. Taken aboard by partisans of democracy, liberalism and the transition to a market economy, the idea became a new tool of reform in the face of power. It belonged to the lexicon of academic institutions, international organizations and Western democracies, and gave Russian militants entry into the structures of international activism.

The members of the Helsinki Group in Moscow, the dissidents Yulia Vishnevskaya, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Dina Kaminskaya and Kronid Lyubarsky, in Munich, in 1978.

The members of the Helsinki Group in Moscow, the dissidents Yulia Vishnevskaya, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Dina Kaminskaya and Kronid Lyubarsky, in Munich, in 1978.

The concept of civil society is part of a group of concepts that ‘change reality’, to use the expression of the Russian sociologist Aleksandr Bikbov16 . Many militants become involved in the creation of non-governmental associations capable of counterbalancing state power, such as the Memorial association (for the rehabilitation of victims of Stalinism and the defense of human rights), the Helsinki Group of Moscow (returning to life after having been dissolved during the Soviet period), the committees of soldiers’ mothers (who fight for the rights of recruits), and numerous other associations for the defense of persons17 . These organizations are solidly anchored in international programs for the development of civil society, several of them with consultancy status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Russian associations are charged with fulfilling social functions previously performed by the Soviet state, in the framework of a liberalization process based on the reduction of the redistributing role of the state. Their capacity to fulfill non-sovereign functions (in areas such as culture, leisure, social aid, etc.) is greatly applauded.

Critiques of domination by the ‘civil society’

Hopes for the universalization of the liberal democracy model embodied in the consensus around the notion of ‘civil society’ were however quickly disappointed. In Europe and elsewhere, new tensions and new authoritarianisms came to the fore in various shapes and contexts. Paradoxical as it may seem, these various constructions often made room for the idea of civil society: heads of the European Union, the king of Morocco and the president of the Federation of Russia, to take only a few examples, readily asserted their determination to strengthen civil society in their respective spaces18 . This came as a surprise in non-pluralist regimes, and indicated that from then on, the notion was disconnected from a democratic project.

Having observed this, critical sociologists understood that the notion of civil society was now a new tool of contemporary government, and insisted on the “unconscious and involuntary process of the production of power” underlying it19 . From that point of view, the idea resembled a concept of government technology, a new ‘discipline’. “At the time when transitology was becoming a toolbox for specialists of political engineering and democracy-makers, it was turning into a language of power,” emphasizes Nicolas Guilhot20 . Thus, “in the institutionalization of the ‘international civil society’, one can be tempted to see less the assertion of a democratic requirement or the emergence of a Habermasian-type world public space, than the creation of a new ‘discipline’, in the foucauldian sense, in the framework of global governmentality”, says Beatrice Pouligny21 . Civil society was also criticized as a tool of market deregulation: like political consensus, the market consensus that accompanied the generalization of the idea, was falling apart.

The democratic critique

The unorthodox uses of the notion of civil society in non-democratic states also question its use as related to democratic states22  and lead to a disconnection between civil society and liberal democracy23 . Political scientists underscore the difficulties raised when representatives of civil society are not elected. In national (le Conseil économique et social in France)24  and international contexts (U.N. Economic and Social Council), civil society representatives are generally named, according to various direct or indirect means. Be it a matter of ‘ministers from civil society’ or members of ‘civil society representation councils’, they are not subject to the approval of universal suffrage25 , but chosen for ‘services rendered’, and are named or designated by their peers. They therefore live in a world distinct from that of political parties and electoral representation, and the desire for legitimate power becomes discredited26 .

The consequences of such procedures are to be treated with caution, since “acknowledging them carries the risk of marginalizing institutions whose legitimacy is more solidly based: those of parliaments” notes Jean-François Bayart27 . Because of their lack of electoral legitimacy, civil society representatives most often exercise only consultancy functions and have no binding voice in public debate, a disconnection that favors their insertion in many non-pluralist states. It in fact makes for the ‘departisation’ of public space, due to the weakness of the representative force it implies and the controlled participation of society’s representatives with no prospect of political change. This type of participation can become a simple ‘managerial technique’, allowing those who govern to consolidate rather than share their power28 . In this way, ‘civil society’, defined as an apolitical (non-partisan) notion in the context of an anti-political ideal, acquires the capacity to found new disciplines.

The market critique

The notion of civil society is also affected by critiques of the market model in contemporary societies, whose representatives, generally actors in the politico-economic reforms inspired by neo-liberalism, are part of a ‘market society’ where economic principles direct and control the behaviors of organizations and individuals. Nonprofit groups generate market income, are in competition for donations and/or take part in the development of social entrepreneurship29 . They contribute to the extension of the liberal economic system, either through their participation in the externalizing of public policies, their contribution to the creation of social programs in a residual way, or their involvement in the gift economy.

Anti-governmental poster « Against the Crooks and Thieves Party » (2011) : « He always votes for United Russia. On command, it will also give you a kick to the face »
Anti-governmental poster « Against the Crooks and Thieves Party » (2011) : « We eat Russia. Soon we will eat it all »
Anti-governmental poster « Against the Crooks and Thieves Party » (2011) : « Here's what the Great Wall of China would look like if it had been built by specialists of the United Russia Party.».

    

Anti-governmental poster « Against the Crooks and Thieves Party » (2011)
Anti-governmental poster « Against the Crooks and Thieves Party » (2011) : « "He voted for United Russia. Shame on him! Do not repeat the same mistake ! ».
Anti-governmental poster « Against the Crooks and Thieves Party » (2011) : « Before they put on your last pair of pants, vote against the Party of Scammers and Thieves ! "United Russia" / "Any other party". ».

The "Crooks and Thieves Party" is a popular expression in Russia that refers to Russia's ruling party led by Dmitry Medvedev. The slogan was popularized by blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny in February 2011 and it was widely used during the campaign for the 2011 parliamentary elections.

On one hand, the development of New Public Management in administrations legitimizes the externalization processes of state functions to non-governmental actors, in the name of the subsidiarity principle supported by international organizations (the European Union, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, etc.)30 . These delegations of competences are put in place through the intermediary of public subsidies to associations. Actors from civil society are involved in ‘public-private partnerships’ furthering the decline of state intervention. On the other hand, new economic theories acknowledge the flaws in market coordination and demand the intervention of a third sector to remedy them31 . International institutions, in need of being re-legitimized faced with the persistence of poverty32 , favor the return to a ‘charitable’ concept of associations to level out inequalities produced by the market.

This misuse of the idea of civil society is criticized by authors who deplore a ‘rampant privatization of the state’33 . They thus reconnect with the critique of the left, even the Marxist approach, which reduced civil society to the economy and bourgeois society.

Unorthodox appropriations of the notion of civil society in authoritarian Russia

The case of Russia is symptomatic of the unorthodox use of the reference to civil society, one that accommodates itself to the construction of an authoritarian state. The Russian paradox questions the coercive uses of this notion and the new authoritarian practices that stem from it in liberalized social contexts.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, the Russian government, while at the same time repressing critical mobilizations, has asserted its determination to reinforce civil society. In September 2013, Vladimir Putin again declared: “It is particularly important for us that civil society in Russia be as independent as possible. Charitable and humanitarian organizations exercising important social functions must benefit from the specific support of the state34 ”. These declarations, numerous since the Russian president came to power, have been accompanied by the creation of institutions for civil society representation in charge of consultancy functions (Civil forums, Human Rights Council, Social Chamber, etc.). These institutions are made up of non-elected personalities, directly or indirectly named by the executive power. When the Social Chamber was created in 2005, Vladimir Putin asserted: “It is evident that the members of the Chamber must be citizens who benefit from wide social support, with personal authority and influence on society […]. These persons must be ready to do the work of specialists and, what is not less important, must not be politically engaged.”

Vladimir Putin on civil society

 

Speech at the Assembly of the Federation, the 26 May 2004.

 

"Our goals are absolutely clear. It is to improve the standard of living in the country, to guarantee security, freedom and well-being. It is to guarantee the development of mature democracy and civil society. It is to strengthen the positions of Russia in the world. And the most important, I repeat, is the increase of citizen's well-being."

 

Speech in front of the Council for the development of civil sociey and the human rights at the Presidentian Office, 1 October 2015

 

"More and more of our citizens are participating in social and charitable projects and in social solidarity initiatives. This active development of civic consciousness is important and must be encouraged".

Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the 3 October 2008. Source : Kremlin.ru

 

This non-political representation of civil society actors went along with the delegation of social and cultural functions to associations. The state massively supported the development of goodwill and charity organizations. Associations were invited to contract with the administration to fulfill different functions of general interest in return for public subsidies. Thus, use of the category ‘civil society’ seemed to be a tool for the depolitization of relations between society and the government and the transfer of general interest missions to nonprofit actors. Such dual use supported the emergence of new forms of governmentality in this authoritarian state.

The oppressive niceness of a civility in common

Faced with these unorthodox, even ‘repugnant’ uses of the reference to civil society, should we abandon the notion? Doing so would lead to forgetting about the autonomy and freedom of judgment of actors who use them. If we take their arguments seriously, we may find ourselves, rather than unmasking a disciplinary form of government, understanding a sociability seeking a civilized government. From that point of view, an anthropological look at the social practices associated with the notion of civil society is an opportunity to re-examine from the bottom up the compromises and arrangements allowed by this notion, without pre-judging its effects on democracy.

« To maintain justice, Putin should resign », Memorial association, petition.

(16 décembre 2010)

In connection with the accusations made by Putin during his address regarding the defendant Mikhail Khodorkovsky, members of the Human Rights Council of Russia have demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation.

“Today the head of government of the Russian Federation V. V. Putin committed two very serious offenses: ten days before the sentencing, speaking as an official he publicly put pressure on the justice system, saying that Khodorkovsky’s guilt had already been proved by the court; in addition he slandered Khodorkovsky, calling him a thief and indirectly accusing him of complicity in a number of murders.

Such behaviour sets a precedent for other government officials.

That Putin tried to cunningly disguise the quite unequivocal content of his speech changes nothing.

It is well known that those who benefited from the liquidation of the oil company “YUKOS” were people close to the Prime Minister. It is possible that this is the main explanation for his new speaking out.

We demand the immediate resignation of Putin. Without this, no serious conversation about the rule of law will be possible in our country.

We understand the complete naivety of our demand in the current political climate, but we consider it essential that our legal and civil position is brought to public attention.

We believe that after the return of Russia to the principles of law and democracy, justice will be brought to all those involved in the falsification of the “YUKOS” trials.

 

- Ludmila Alekseeva, Chair of Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) and the Foundation For the Rights of Prisoners

- Sergei Kovalev, of the Public Commission for the Preservation of the Heritage of Academician A. D.Sakharov

- Svetlana Gannushkina, Chair of the Committee “Civic Assistance” and member of the Board of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”

- Oleg Orlov, Chair of the Council of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”

- Valeriy Borschev, member of  Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) and of the Foundation “Social Partnership”

- Lev Ponomarev, All-Russian Movement “For Human Rights”

- Yurii Vdovin, “Civic Control” and member of the Human Rights Council of St Petersburg

- Lilia Shibanova, the association “Voice”

- Boris Zolotukhin, member of Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG)

- Fr. Gleb Yakunin, the Public Commission for Freedom of Conscience

Les bureaux de l’association « Pour les droits de l’homme » à Moscou, au printemps 2013.

Association Mémorial. Source : Françoise Daucé.

The study of concrete situations enables us to envisage the notion of civil society as a common place35  oor ‘shared agreement’36 making it possible to create cooperations between diverse actors. Within this convergence work, the idea of ‘civility’ becomes central to understanding ‘civil society’, in the sense that emphasis is no longer laid on the opposition between state and an emancipated society, but on the process of ‘civilization’ as one that brings about more gentle political mores37 . Since the 1980s, a number of studies have sought to characterize a form of ‘gentle domination,’ seemingly developed in relation with new capitalism. In the case of the reference to civil society, this common civility makes it possible to pacify political conflict, to envisage collaborations between institutional and social partners, and to think rather in terms of what they have in common than of political differences. It is carried out however, at the expense of political criticism.

The softening of radicalisms

In authoritarian regimes, the weakness of political debate and collective mobilization is either attributed to ancestral cultural traits, or to intimidating (even violent) institutional mechanisms. However, if we look closely at the reference to civil society, we also perceive therein a search for harmony without conflict, a quest for mutual aid, approval and comfort. In that sense, it inspires new forms of debate, with priority given both to a depolitization of commitments and a softening of radicalisms in public. More than a disciplinary tool, it can be seen as a mechanism for well-regulated negotiation between actors, a ‘common norm’ allowing interactions to take place in good order38 .

Behaviors are in fact regulated by interactions between individuals defending very different ideas of norms, or who themselves are uncertain as to the kind of values and norms best adapted to each situation. Faced with these difficulties of coordination, a shared reference facilitates relations. In all senses of the term, civil society is seen as a category enabling a lessening of the difficulties raised by society’s inevitably pluralist nature and by pluralist politics in particular. Contradictory political debate is indeed delicate and difficult, liable to engender social fragmentation. Membership in the world of civil society makes it possible to keep out of political controversies and the everyday fractures they provoke.

As Nina Eliasoph remarks, analyzing “the evaporation of politics” in American associations, the range of citizens’ preoccupations shrinks the moment they express themselves in public contexts. People censor their speech, even when they are far from oppressive contexts. In her study of community aid associations in the U.S., she underscores the fact that civic etiquette proscribes political conversation39 . In the same way, membership in the world of civil society favors the softening of political interactions in public space.

The appeal of good management

The weakening of political confrontation facilitates becoming a player in the world of mutual aid and solidarity, as in the world of efficiency and expertise. The institutional mechanisms and conventions implemented in the name of civil society are accompanied by a technification of relations between administrative and social actors, a valorization of expertise and of shared professionalism. Associations, caught between the constraints of public authorities and the appeal of management symbolic fall back, as Bernard Erne underscores, on a model of good management which gives priority to the means over the ends40 . Collaboration mechanisms are based on ensuring the legitimacy of the actors who co-produce and maintain their function.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the use of management tools has favored the participation of civil society representatives in public action around shared mechanisms (fundraising, benchmarking, etc.). These managerial techniques, though they promote public/private cooperations, risk generating a “phantom” civil society, born of “over-modelized” or clearly “fabricated” civic activities41 . Citizen participation in state mechanisms is constantly criticized for its weak impact on political decisions and actions. Recourse to expertise and professionalization risks “takeover relations”42  of dominant actors over civil representatives. However, the voluntary participation of militants in these cooperation mechanisms shows that they accept these new forms of relations, which raises the question of the co-production of mechanisms of social regulation, even when authoritarian.

The civility of oppression in Russia

In Russia of the 2000s, the shared reference of the idea of civil society did in fact make it possible to attenuate the violence of relations between the state and militant critics. Civil society representatives accepted to take part in collaboration entities created by the government – a participation that came about because of the closure of the political system characterized by the domination of the parties in power in Parliament.

Press release of the association Memorial « Putin's Offer Threatens the Future of Russia » (30th January 2012)

 

On January 23rd in the Independent Newspaper (Nezavisimaya) the second pre-election article of the candidate on the post of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, was published.

An obvious desire to please many  – if not everyone – caused the article to be filled with contradictory statements and various quotes from historians, philosophers, and politicians in an inaccurate and biased broadcast. Therefore, it would be senseless to allocate any theses with which you could agree and then contradict them within the same text.

Another scary thing: among the positive wishes for cultural development, strengthening the judicial system, and building effective law enforcement agencies the only practical intention was the introduction of criminal liability for breaking migratory laws and norms of registration. With this goal in mind V. Putin suggests carrying out a revision of the Administrative and Criminal Codes. “Naturally,” Mr. Putin adds, following the general construction of the text, “without infringing upon the constitutional rights of citizens in choosing a place of residence.”

How it is possible to introduce the criminal liability of citizens for the realization of one of their basic human rights, without infringing upon it, is left unclear to the reader.

It may not be apparent to Mr. Putin that one of the first decisions of the Constitutional Court, formed in 1991 during the Soviet period, was the decision of the illegality of administrative licensing of residential permits. The law was adopted in 1994, but in 1993 the residential permit was already legislatively replaced by registration. In 1995 by entering into the Council of Europe, Russia incurred the obligation to do away with the institution of administrative registration; the fact of the matter being that the bylaws only terminologically replaced the residential permit. The numerous decisions of the Constitutional Court played a big role in the advancement of this requirement. The goal of which decisions was to move as far away as possible from the institution of residential permits and give registration a notifying form and intelligent meaning. Slowly, Russia is leaving behind the serfdom of the institution of residential permits and is moving in a reasonable direction.

But now the person campaigning for the position of President of the Russian Federation is suggesting to cross out all achievements made in past years, neglect the decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, neglect the promises made to the Council of Europe, and return to the Soviet institution of residential permits.

What relationship does registration have to do with keeping order? Do we want policemen from the patrol and inspection service to be on every corner checking the registration of every brunette or, in Chechnya, of every blond instead of keeping order and catching gangsters?

Is it really not clear to Mr. Putin that a restriction of freedom for citizens to move about within their own country will open up unlimited opportunities for the arbitrariness of bureaucrats? The further growth of corruption, illegal requisitions and extortion are inevitable consequences of Putin's suggestion. Such a restriction of the rights of Russian citizens will surely cross out any hope that our country can turn from “raw material” into a modern, dynamically developing state.

Most likely, candidate Putin understands this all very clearly; however, being the spokesman of interests of the bureaucracy, he sees the future Russia as a semi-feudal state in which the population which is attached to territories is in dependence of bureaucratic “barons” and deputies of the federal center. But does he understand that the people will not be reconciled to such a policy? Such a policy will invariably lead to great social pressure, which will inevitably end in an explosion.

 

- Valery Borshchev, Fund “Social Partnership”, member of Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG)

- Lev Ponomarev, CEO, All-Russian movement “For Human Rights”

- Ludmila Alekseeva, Chairwoman of Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG)

- Oleg Orlov, Chairman of the Board, HRC “Memorial”

- Svetlana Gannushkina, Head of “Civil Assistance” Committee

- Yuri Vdovin, “Civil Control,” member HR Council of St. Peterburg

- Yuri Schmidt, lawyer, member HR Council of St. Peterburg

Les bureaux de l'association Mémorial à Moscou

Les bureaux de l'Association Mémorial à Moscou.

In that context, the Social Chamber, the Human Rights Council responsible to the President, or the social councils under the ministries seemed to be additional entities making it possible to maintain dialogue with the authorities. In these bodies, civil society representatives accepted the expertise, legalization and professionalization games that allowed them to take advantage of subsidies distributed by the state in the framework of ‘presidential subsidies to civil society’ in place since 2007. These same associative actors benefited from the externalization of the state’s social functions. In the early 2010s, several large human rights defense associations thus obtained public financing for programs for aid to prisoners, for the struggle against extremism and the reception of migrants. State control was thus obtained both by playing on repression through law enforcement43  and by the liberal management of associations44  through subsidies and collaborations with the State45 . Even in the context of the implementation of the law ‘On foreign agents’ beginning in 201346 , associations brought to court by legal bodies can receive funding from the state according to a cooperative rationale.

The results of the legislative elections in 2007 in Russia.
The results of the legislative elections in 2011 in Russia.

The 2007 parliamentary elections were marked by the victory of the United Russia Party of President Vladimir Putin. Of the 450 deputies of the lower house of the Russian Parliament (Duma) the Party of United Russia obtained 315 seats (64.30% of the votes). In the elections of 2011, the party of Vladimir Putin obtained an absolute majority of 238 seats (49.32% of the votes).

Although these cooperations do not prevent militants from expressing their critiques, the latter are expressed with greater moderation. Civil militants protested during large demonstrations, in 2006 against the questioning of social advantages, and in 2011/2012 against electoral fraud. Observers generally diagnosed these movements as an ‘awakening of civil society,’ but they also emphasized their weight in face of the State, as well as the diversity of political actors involved, from the extreme left to the center and extreme right. In Russia, as elsewhere, when civil society actors participate in collaborative entities created by the state, depolitization and self-restraint are de rigueur.

Conclusion

Initially thought of as an emancipating notion faced with the domination of a bureaucratic state, civil society can also be a shared reference allowing individuals and groups, from the State and/or the public, to act together. In the contemporary world, this notion no longer refers to the opposition between state and society but to “civility as an operation of adjustment to a reality and of coordination of tasks, so as to act in a relevant, coherent and logical manner”47 . Because of this shift in meaning, it is no longer solely the prerogative of Western democracies, but also an acceptable category for non-pluralist regimes.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, la grande figure du mouvement pour la défense des droits civils en Russie.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, President of the Helsinki Group in Moscow and one of the leading figures of the civil rights movement in Russia.

Today, the search for civilized concord is broadly shared, far more so than the classical division between democracy and authoritarianism. Civil society, as opposed to the world of party discord and electoral battles, is embodied in consultative entities named at the expense of elected legislative bodies. Its representatives participate in the co-control of problematic situations in the context of public issues. Reference to civil society also facilitates the regulation of market relations and a reduction of the state’s social functions, since a large number of the latter are delegated to associations and their actors.

The interactions and games deployed around this notion show that society’s representation mechanisms are not only undertakings of subjection and domination, but also, mechanisms of collaboration and cooperation that regulate criticism and tone down dispute. From that point of view, faith in the notion of civil society civilizes oppression in authoritarian regimes and makes oppressive arrangements possible in democratic regimes.

Unfold notes and references
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1

Andrew Arato, Jean Cohen, Civil Society and Political Theory, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1992; Dominique Colas, Le Glaive et le fléau. Généalogie du fanatisme et de la société civile, Paris, Grasset, 1992.

Retour vers la note de texte 267

3

Hélène Michel, “La ‘société civile’ dans la ‘gouvernance européenne’. Éléments pour une sociologie d’une catégorie politique”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 1-2, 2007, p. 30-37 ; Frédéric Vairel. “L’opposition en situation autoritaire : statut et modes d’action”, in O. Dabène, V. Geisser, G. Massardier (dir.), Autoritarismes démocratiques et démocraties autoritaires au xxie siècle. Convergences Nord-Sud, Paris, La Découverte, 2008, p. 213-232 ; Alfio Mastropaolo, “Italie : quand la politique invente la société civile”, Revue française de science politique, no 4, 2001, p. 621-636 ; Béatrice Pouligny, “Une société civile internationale ?”, Critique internationale, no 4, 2001, p. 120-122 ; Jean-Noël Ferrié, “Les limites d’une démocratisation par la société civile en Afrique du Nord”, Études et Documents du CEDEJ, n° 7, 2004.

Retour vers la note de texte 268

4

Jean-François Bayart, “Le ‘pidgin’ de la société civile”, Alternatives économiques, n° 190, 2001, p. 13.

Retour vers la note de texte 269

5

Françoise Daucé, Une Paradoxale oppression. Le pouvoir et les associations en Russie, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2013.

Retour vers la note de texte 270

6

Sunil Khilnani, “La ‘société civile’, une résurgence”, Critique internationale, n° 10, 2001, p. 38-50.

Retour vers la note de texte 271

7

Luc Boltanski, Laurent Thévenot, De la justification. Les économies de la grandeur, Paris, Gallimard, 1991.

Retour vers la note de texte 272

8

Hélène Michel, “La ‘société civile’ dans la ‘gouvernance européenne’. Éléments pour une sociologie d’une catégorie politique”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 1-2, 2007, p. 30-37.

Retour vers la note de texte 273

9

Sudipta Kaviraj, Sunil Khilnani (dir.), Civil Society. History and Possibilities, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Retour vers la note de texte 275

11

Dominique Colas, Dictionnaire de la pensée politique, Paris, Larousse, 1997 ; Jay Rowell, Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Grammaire de la société civile et réforme sociale en Allemagne”, Critique Internationale, n° 2, 2007, p. 150.

Retour vers la note de texte 276

12

Miklos Molnar, La Démocratie se lève à l’est. Société civile et communisme en Europe de l’est : Pologne et Hongrie, Paris, PUF, 1990.

Retour vers la note de texte 277

13

Michel Dobry, “Les processus de transition à la démocratie”, Cultures & Conflits, n° 17, 1995.

Retour vers la note de texte 278

14

Sunil Khilnani, “La ‘société civile’, une résurgence”, Critique internationale, n° 10, 2001, p. 38-50.

Retour vers la note de texte 279

15

Sunil Khilnani, “La ‘société civile’, une résurgence”, Critique internationale, n° 10, 2001, p. 38-50.

Retour vers la note de texte 280

16

Aleksandr Bikbov, Grammatika poriadka. Istoricheskaia sociologia poniatij, kotorye meniaiut nashe real’nost, Moscou, Vyshaia Shkola Ekonomiki, 2014.

Retour vers la note de texte 281

17

Françoise Daucé, “The Government and Human Rights Groups in Russia : Civilized Oppression ?”, Journal of Civil Society, n° 3, 2014, p. 239-254 ; Anna Colin-Lebedev, Le Cœur politique des mères. Analyse du mouvement des mères de soldats en Russie, Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS, 2013.

Retour vers la note de texte 282

18

Voir respectivement : Hélène Michel, “La ‘société civile’ dans la ‘gouvernance européenne’. Éléments pour une sociologie d’une catégorie politique”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 1-2, 2007, p. 30-37 ; Frédéric Vairel. “L’opposition en situation autoritaire : statut et modes d’action”, in O. Dabène, V. Geisser, G. Massardier (dir.), Autoritarismes démocratiques et démocraties autoritaires au xxie siècle. Convergences Nord-Sud, Paris, La Découverte, 2008, p. 213-232 ; Françoise Daucé, Une Paradoxale oppression. Le pouvoir et les associations en Russie, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2013.

Retour vers la note de texte 284

19

Graham Burchell, “Peculiar Interests : Civil Society and governing ‘the System of Natural Liberty’”, in G. Burchell, C. Gordon, P. Miller (dir.), The Foucault Effect. Studies in Governmentality, Exeter, Harvester, 1991, p. 119-150 ; Michel Foucault, “Leçon du 28 mars 1979”, in M. Foucault, La Naissance de la biopolitique. Cours au Collège de France (1978-1979), Paris, Le Seuil, 2004, p. 271-294 ; Céline Spector, “Foucault, les Lumières et l’histoire : l’émergence de la société civile”, Lumières, n° 8, 2007, p. 169-191. http://celinespector.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Foucault-Spector.pdf.

Retour vers la note de texte 283

20

Nicolas Guilhot, The Democracy Makers. Human Rights and the Politics of Global Order, New York, Columbia University Press, 2005.

Retour vers la note de texte 285

21

Béatrice Pouligny, “Une société civile internationale ?”, Critique internationale, n° 4, 2001, p. 120-122.

Retour vers la note de texte 288

22

Hélène Michel, “La ‘société civile’ dans la ‘gouvernance européenne’. Éléments pour une sociologie d’une catégorie politique”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 1-2, 2007, p. 30-37 ; Frédéric Vairel, “L’opposition en situation autoritaire : statut et modes d’action”, in O. Dabène, V. Geisser, G. Massardier (dir.), Autoritarismes démocratiques et démocraties autoritaires au xxie siècle. Convergences Nord-Sud, Paris, La Découverte, 2008, p. 213-232 ; Jean-Noël Ferrié, “Les limites d’une démocratisation par la société civile en Afrique du Nord”, Études et Documents du CEDEJ, n° 7, 2004.

Retour vers la note de texte 289

23

Sunil Khilnani, “La ‘société civile’, une résurgence”, Critique internationale, n° 10, 2001, p. 38-50.

Retour vers la note de texte 290

24

Alain Chatriot, La Démocratie sociale à la française. L’expérience du Conseil national économique. 1924-1940, Paris, La Découverte, 2013 ; A. Chatriot, “Les apories de la représentation de la société civile. Débats et expériences autour des compositions successives des assemblées consultatives en France au xxe siècle”, Revue française de droit constitutionnel, n° 3, 2007, p. 535-555.

Retour vers la note de texte 291

25

Michel Offerlé, La Société civile en question, Paris, La Documentation française, 2003.

Retour vers la note de texte 292

26

Frédérique Matonti, Franck Poupeau, “Le capital militant. Essai de définition”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 5, 2004, p. 4-11.

Retour vers la note de texte 293

27

Jean-François Bayart, “Le ‘pidgin’ de la société civile”, Alternatives économiques, n° 190, 2001, p. 13.

Retour vers la note de texte 294

28

Loïc Blondiaux, Yves Sintomer, “L’impératif délibératif”, Politix, n° 57, 2002, p. 17-35.

Retour vers la note de texte 295

29

Angela M. Eikenberry, Jodie Drapal Kluver, “The Marketization of the Nonprofit Sector : Civil Society at Risk ?”, Public Administration Review, n° 2, 2004, p. 132-140.

Retour vers la note de texte 296

30

Thierry Brugvin, “La gouvernance par la société civile : une privatisation de la démocratie ?”, in A. Caillé (dir.), Quelle démocratie voulons-nous ? Pièces pour un débat, Paris, La Découverte, 2006, p. 68-77.

Retour vers la note de texte 297

31

Geneviève Azam, “Économie sociale, tiers secteur, économie solidaire : quelles frontières ?”, Revue du MAUSS, n° 1, 2003, p. 151-161.

Retour vers la note de texte 298

32

Serge Latouche, “Malaise dans l’association ou pourquoi l’économie plurielle et solidaire me laisse perplexe”, in J.-L. Laville, A. Caillé, P. Chanial (dir.), Association, démocratie et société civile, Paris, La Découverte, 2001, p. 17-26.

Retour vers la note de texte 299

33

Béatrice Hibou (dir.), La Privatisation des États, Paris, Karthala, 1999.

Retour vers la note de texte 303

35

Laurent Thévenot, “Voicing Concern and Difference. From Public Spaces to Common-Places”, European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, n° 1, 2014, p. 7-34.

Retour vers la note de texte 304

36

Pauline Peretz, Olivier Pilmis, Nadège Vezinat, “La vie en société : une improvisation. Entretien avec Howard Becker”, La Vie des idées, 3 février 2015.

Retour vers la note de texte 305

37

Norbert Elias, La Civilisation des mœurs, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1976.

Retour vers la note de texte 306

38

Nicolas Dodier, “L’espace et le mouvement du sens critique”, Annales. HSS, n° 1, 2005, p. 7-31.

Retour vers la note de texte 307

39

Nina Eliasoph, L’Évitement du politique. Comment les Américains produisent l’apathie dans la vie quotidienne, Paris, Economica, 2010.

Retour vers la note de texte 308

40

Bernard Eme, “Les associations ou les tourments de l’ambivalence”, in J.-L. Laville, A. Caillé, P. Chanial (dir.), Association, démocratie et société civile, Paris, La Découverte, 2001, p. 27-58.

Retour vers la note de texte 311

43

Voir les rapports de la Fédération internationale des droits de l’homme, d’Amnesty International ou de Human Rights Watch.

Retour vers la note de texte 312

44

Carole Sigman, “Le ‘nouveau management public’ en Russie. Les tribulations d’une transposition”, Gouvernement et action publique, n° 3, 2013, p. 441-460.

Retour vers la note de texte 314

45

Graeme Robertson, The Politics of Protest in Hybrid Regimes : Managing Dissent in Post-Communist Russia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011 ; Françoise Daucé, Une Paradoxale oppression. Le pouvoir et les associations en Russie, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2013.

Retour vers la note de texte 315

46

Françoise Daucé, « The Duality of Coercion in Russia : Cracking Down on “Foreign Agents” », Demokratizatsyia, n° 1, 2015, p. 102-136.

Retour vers la note de texte 318

47

Daniel Cefaï, “Comment se mobilise-t-on ? L’apport d’une approche pragmatiste à la sociologie de l’action collective”, Sociologie et sociétés, n°2, 2009, p. 245-269.

Andrew Arato, Jean Cohen, Civil Society and Political Theory, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1992.

Geneviève Azam, “Économie sociale, tiers secteur, économie solidaire : quelles frontières ?”, Revue du MAUSS, n° 1, 2003, p. 151-161.

Jean-François Bayart, “Le ‘pidgin’ de la société civile”, Alternatives économiques, n° 190, 2001 (en ligne).

Mathieu Berger, “Des publics fantomatiques. Participation faible et démophobie”, SociologieS, 2015 (en ligne).

Aleksandr Bikbov, Grammatika poriadka. Istoricheskaia sociologia poniatij, kotorye meniaiut nashe real’nost, Moscou, Vyshaia Shkola Ekonomiki, 2014.

Loïc Blondiaux, Yves Sintomer, “L’impératif délibératif”, Politix, n° 57, 2002, p. 17-35.

Luc Boltanski, Laurent Thévenot, De la justification. Les économies de la grandeur, Paris, Gallimard, 1991.

Thierry Brugvin, “La gouvernance par la société civile : une privatisation de la démocratie ?”, in Alain Caillé (dir.), Quelle démocratie voulons-nous ? Pièces pour un débat, Paris, La Découverte, 2006, p. 68-77.

Graham Burchell, “Peculiar Interests : Civil Society and governing ‘the System of Natural Liberty’”, in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, Peter Miller (dir.), The Foucault Effect. Studies in Governmentality, Exeter, Harvester, 1991, p. 119-150.

Francis Chateauraynaud, “L’emprise comme expérience. Enquêtes pragmatiques et théories du pouvoir”, SociologieS, 2015 (en ligne).

Alain Chatriot, La Démocratie sociale à la française. L’expérience du Conseil national économique. 1924-1940, Paris, La Découverte, 2013.

Jean Cohen, “Pour une démocratie en mouvement. Lectures critiques de la société civile”, Raisons politiques, n° 3, 2001, p. 139-160.

Dominique Colas, Le Glaive et le fléau. Généalogie du fanatisme et de la société civile, Paris, Grasset, 1992.

Dominique Colas, Dictionnaire de la pensée politique, Paris, Larousse, 1997.

Anna Colin-Lebedev, Le Cœur politique des mères. Analyse du mouvement des mères de soldats en Russie, Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS, 2013.

Olivier Dabène, Vincent Geisser, Gilles Massardier (dir.), Autoritarismes démocratiques et démocraties autoritaires au xxie siècle. Convergences Nord-Sud, Paris, La Découverte, 2008.

Françoise Daucé, Une Paradoxale oppression. Le pouvoir et les associations en Russie, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2013.

Françoise Daucé, “The Government and Human Rights Groups in Russia : Civilized Oppression ?”, Journal of Civil Society, n° 3, 2014, p. 239-254.

Michel Dobry, “Les processus de transition à la démocratie”, Cultures & Conflits, n° 17, 1995 (en ligne).

Nicolas Dodier, “L’espace et le mouvement du sens critique”, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, n° 1, 2005, p. 7-31.

Angela M. Eikenberry, Jodie Drapal Kluver, “The Marketization of the Nonprofit Sector : Civil Society at Risk ?”, Public Administration Review, n° 2, 2004, p. 132-140.

Norbert Elias, La Civilisation des mœurs, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1976.

Nina Eliasoph, L’Évitement du politique. Comment les Américains produisent l’apathie dans la vie quotidienne, Paris, Economica, 2010.

Bernard Eme, "Les associations ou les tourments de l’ambivalence", in Jean-Louis Laville, Alain Caillé, Philippe Chanial (dir.), Association, démocratie et société civile, Paris, La Découverte, 2001, p. 27-58.

Jean-Noël Ferrié, “Les limites d’une démocratisation par la société civile en Afrique du Nord”, Études et Documents du CEDEJ, n7, 2004 (en ligne).

Michel Foucault, “Leçon du 28 mars 1979”, in M. Foucault, La Naissance de la biopolitique. Cours au Collège de France (1978-1979), Paris, Le Seuil, 2004, p. 271-294.

Nicolas Guilhot, The Democracy Makers. Human Rights and the Politics of Global Order, New York, Columbia University Press, 2005.

Béatrice Hibou (dir), La Privatisation des États, Paris, Karthala, 1999.

Sudipta Kaviraj, Sunil Khilnani (dir.), Civil Society, History and Possibilities, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Sunil Khilnani, “La ‘société civile’, une résurgence”, Critique internationale, n° 10, 2001, p. 38-50.

Krishan Kumar, “Civil Society : An Inquiry into the Usefulness of an Historical Term”, The British Journal of Sociology, n° 3, 1993, p. 375-395.

Serge Latouche, “Malaise dans l’association ou pourquoi l’économie plurielle et solidaire me laisse perplexe”, in Jean-Louis Laville, Alain Caillé, Philippe Chanial (dir.), Association, démocratie et société civile, Paris, La Découverte, 2001, p. 17-26.

Jean-Louis Laville, Alain Caillé, Philippe Chanial (dir.), Association, démocratie et société civile, Paris, La Découverte, 2001.

Alfio Mastropaolo, “Italie : quand la politique invente la société civile”, Revue française de science politique, n° 4, 2001, p. 621-636.

Frédérique Matonti, Franck Poupeau, “Le capital militant. Essai de définition”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 5, 2004, p. 4-11.

Hélène Michel, “La ‘société civile’ dans la ‘gouvernance européenne’. Éléments pour une sociologie d’une catégorie politique”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n° 1-2, 2007, p. 30-37.

Miklos Molnar, La Démocratie se lève à l’est. Société civile et communisme en Europe de l’est : Pologne et Hongrie, Paris, PUF, 1990.

Michel Offerlé, La Société civile en question, Paris, La Documentation française, 2003.

Pauline Peretz, Olivier Pilmis, Nadège Vezinat, “La vie en société : une improvisation. Entretien avec Howard Becker”, La Vie des idées, 3 février 2015.

Béatrice Pouligny, “Une société civile internationale ?”, Critique internationale, n° 4, 2001, p. 120-122.

Graeme Robertson, The Politics of Protest in Hybrid Regimes. Managing Dissent in Post-Communist Russia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Jay Rowel, Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Grammaire de la société civile et réforme sociale en Allemagne”, Critique Internationale, n° 2, 2007, p. 149-171.

Carole Sigman, “Le ‘nouveau management public’ en Russie. Les tribulations d’une transposition”, Gouvernement et action publique, n° 3, 2013, p. 441-460.

Céline Spector, “Foucault, les lumières et l’histoire : l’émergence de la société civile”, Lumières, n° 8, 2007, p. 169-191.

Laurent Thévenot, “Voicing Concern and Difference. From Public Spaces to Common-Places”, European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, n° 1, 2014, p. 7-34.

Frédéric Vairel, “L’opposition en situation autoritaire : statut et modes d’action”, in Olivier Dabène, Vincent Geisser, Gilles Massardier (dir.), Autoritarismes démocratiques et démocraties autoritaires au xxie siècle. Convergences Nord-Sud, Paris, La Découverte, 2008, p. 213-232.

Une collection de contenus sélectionnée sur Politika

Public Sphere in Modern Societies

Since the eighteen century, the public-private distinction has structured our societies. While in the private sphere, the individual builds a relationship to himself and develops as unique being, in the public sphere, the different social actors voice their opinions about what should be the general interest and thus contribute to building the notion of the common good.

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Doing Social Sciences

Guided by a few intuitions and armed with their reflexivity, social scientists build their objects, elaborate investigative devices and interpret the field data. Thus, the scientific approach contributes to a better understading of our world.

Une collection de contenus sélectionnée sur Politika

From the Ottoman Empire to Contemporary Turkey

Turkey has been, since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian drift, at the heart of the key issues affecting, both the national and international marketplace. The Entries presented here raise the question of the relationship to power in a long-term perspective. They highlight the role played by different social actors such as the State, the local notables, etc., in the process of modernisation as well as the ways of channelling the state domination yesterday and today.