Civil Society’s Democratic Potential: Organizational Trade-offs between Participation and Representation
Lecture by Nicole Bolleyer, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Which civil society organizations (CSOs) contribute to democracy, how and why? Organized civil society is traditionally considered a cornerstone of democracy. Nevertheless, individual CSOs’ readiness and ability to serve as venues for participation, vehicles of democratic representation or indeed both at the same time have remained a matter of on-going debate across social science disciplines. Prominent notions such as ‘NGOization’ and ‘cartelization’ have problematized CSOs’ and parties’ increasing state dependency and professionalization, shifting organizational priorities away from societal values towards instrumentally driven self-maintenance, thereby diminishing their contribution to democratic governance.
In her lecture, Nicole Bolleyer assesses the discrepancies between membership-based CSOs’ democratic potentials and the latter’s actual realization in four European democracies. The lecture presents key insights from her latest book, forthcoming with Oxford University Press. The book advances civil society research in at least three ways: First, the book offers a multidimensional conceptualization of membership-based CSOs’ potential democratic contributions Second, the book proposes a conceptualization of two contrasting governance templates – the ‘voluntary association’ and the ‘professionalized voluntary organization.’ This allow theorizing fundamental trade-offs delimiting individual CSOs’ ability to ‘perform’ on different dimensions at the same time. Finally, the book examines those trade-offs empirically by combining cross-national quantitative analyses of survey data with qualitative, longitudinal case studies. The results provide a systematic yet rich and nuanced picture of how controversially-discussed CSO characteristics (e.g. CSO professionalization or dependency on state funding) affect CSOs’ diverse contributions to democracy.
Nicole Bolleyer is Head of Chair of Comparative Political Science at the Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science, Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität, Munich.
Moderated by Edgar Grande, Founding Director of the Center for Civil Society Research at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
The event is part of the lecture series Civil Society and Political Conflict, organized by the Center for Civil Society Research.