Civil Society-Based Governance in Africa: Theories and Practices. A Case Study of Senegal

Mbaye Lo
Society Studies Center

This book examines the liberal conception of civil society and its applicability to the context of Africa. Although it acknowledges the reality of civil society as a paradigmatic way of thinking about democracy and good governance, it questions the conception of civil society and its use for development in Africa. The book argues that if the concept of civil society is to be successful, it has to capture fully and correctly most aspects of Africa's associational life without leaving out major portions of the socio-political mosaic. Only then, can the concept of civil society be a legitimate tool for recognizing groups and associations and organizing their problems and claims for a sustainable democracy. The African experience is different from the liberal context of civil society. The liberal argument of civil society springs from the Western conception of state-society relationships. In this convention, power, authoritarianism and exploitation are the exclusive property of the state, while society belongs to the realm of freedom, rights, and liberty To examine this argument, this study uses Senegal as a case study to explore how the idiosyncrasy of societal development in this country has constructed and produced different types of associational life and how they fit within the liberal conception of civil society. Senegal was selected as an ideal case because it is widely regarded as a vibrant model of civil society and democracy. In essence, the question is whether the civil society that exists in Senegal conforms to the liberal argument of civil. The findings reveal that, in Senegal, civil society differs in many forms from the liberal propositions.

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