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In the Shadow of the Iron Curtain

Central and Eastern European Alterglobalists

Grzegorz Piotrowski

This book examines the alterglobalist activists in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Based on lengthy ethnographic fieldwork and numerous in-depth interviews with key figures of the movement, it covers mobilizations and actions between 1998 and 2011 and analyzes the process of adapting the alterglobalist way of thinking, claims and organizational modes in post-socialist countries. By pointing out the main challenges the movement faced, the author discusses the ways it tried to overcome these. The main argument is that the post-communist legacy (expressed in low levels of mobilization, in rejection of leftist ideals and discourse and in deep mistrust towards political life) had a tremendous impact on the formation and the shape of the alterglobalist movement in the region.

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Chapter 5: Civil Society, Uncivil Society and Grassroots Activism

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While looking at the political and social life of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, one can observe several specificities. In particular, when one looks at contentious politics, bearing in mind the mass mobilizations that forced the communists regimes out of power in 1989, one can observe a significant decline in terms of numbers of people taking part in such contentious politics activity. Also the activism of the less radical parts of the political scene seems to be little bit less vibrant (Cisař 2013). My hypothesis is that civil society in the region is different from its Western counterparts, both in terms of numbers and structure. The main purpose of this chapter is to see, whether the alterglobalist movement can be regarded as part of the civil society sphere, especially when one considers the debate about the emergence of the Global Civil Society (Anheier 2002, Keane 2003). For Piotr Gliński (2006) the alterglobalist movement cannot become part of the civil society sphere, because of its ‘uncivil’ methods (repertoire of protests derived from Direct Action). This remark seems to be valid on the global level of analyzing the movement, what I am interested in more is the local specificities that are subjected to the influences of postsocialism.

The connections between the alterglobalist movement and civil society can be looked at on several levels: the movement sometimes casts global civil society as its aim, and as the potential remedy for the injustices of the world. Furthermore,...

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