Civil Society, Popular Protest, and Democracy in Latin America
Frajman, Eduardo Ohav
Alford, C. Fred
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This dissertation addresses the relationship between mobilized coalitions of movements and organizations emerging from civil society and the promotion of democracy. It offers a critique of major works in political theory that see in civil society the potential to transform democratic politics, primarily through the protection of civil society from the state in order to allow for the development of new identities and forms of sociability. The three main theoretical objections to these works involve their focus on state-civil society relations at the expense of economic factors, the presupposition that consensus is present in civil society, and the assumption that mobilized civil societies are fueled from the grassroots. Four recent cases of civil society mobilizations from Latin America, in Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Bolivia, are presented to illustrate the deficiencies of current theoretical approaches to civil society. The case studies show the importance of material conditions and the framing of specific grievances in the formation of popular movements grounded in civil society.