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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Civil Society in African Contexts: Reflections on the Usefulness of a Concept
Author:Lewis, David
Periodical:Development and Change
Geographic term:Africa
Subjects:political systems
Development and Technology
Anthropology and Archaeology
Politics and Government
Abstract:This article considers the usefulness of the concept of civil society - both as an analytical construct and as a policy tool - in non-Western contexts, drawing on a selected review of literature on Africa from anthropology and development studies. Rejecting arguments that the concept has little meaning outside its Western origins, but critical of the sometimes crude export of the concept by Western development donors seeking to build 'good governance', the author examines different local meanings being created around the concept as part of an increasingly universal negotiation between citizens, States and markets. The article clarifies different theoretical traditions in thinking about civil society, and suggests distinguishing the use of civil society as an analytical term from the set of actually existing groups, organizations and processes which are active on the ground. The concept is therefore useful in the analysis of contemporary politics, but is also important because it has a capacity to inspire action. Bibliogr., ref., sum. [Journal abstract]