Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices
“They are with the Others”: From Gossip to Stigmatization, Romanian Civil Society through an Informal Perspective
The polysemous concept of civil society, studied by many scholars in different theoretical perspectives, is still widely discussed, especially in the context of Central and Eastern Europe, where it has become a recurrent topic in the democratization process. In 1989, most scholars argued about the “rise of civil society” and its role of counter power between the state and the market (Molnar, 1990; Di Palma, 1991). During the liberalization process, civil society aimed to support the new democratic institutions and to control the emergence of capitalism. Therefore, in the early 1990s civil society was defined by a liberal paradigm and studied through theoretical perspectives with a strong normative approach (Bernhard, 1993).
At the turn of the twenty-first century, scholars have to face the reality of this “third sphere”: civil society has not developed according to their expectations and many authors tried to find explanations for this (Green, 2002). The case of Romania particularly illustrates this trend because of the lack of political dissidence under the communist regime and the violent revolution of December 1989: it is considered as an “exception” in the region (Tismaneanu, 2001). Scholars who had expected strong civic associations to appear focus on the factors that slowed their development: path dependency and the legacy of communism, economic factors and poverty, the Orthodox religion (which does not encourage charity), and so forth.
The literature has focused, on the one hand, on normative aspects and expectations about “civil society” in top-down approaches, as...
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