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Civil Society on the Move

Transition and Transfer in Germany and South Korea

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Eun-Jeung Lee and Hannes B. Mosler

Following the transformation of the Soviet-controlled Eastern European system, there has been a renewal of discourses on civil society. The collection of essays discusses this complicated and controversial concept and explores the possibility of new approaches for the study of Korean civil society and democracy. Combining interdisciplinary and transregional research, it contributes directly to the field of democracy after democratization and sheds light on concepts of civil society, developments of various civil society organizations and student movements in Germany, Korea, and Eastern Europe.
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Weak civil societies – either a legacy of state socialism or as produced by the transition stress? East Central Europe after 1989 in comparison

Abstract

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This analysis examines the function of civil society in Eastern European countries that experienced a crisis of representative democracy even after regime change. The study focuses on the fact that in Korea and many Eastern European countries, civil society organizations had a negative impact on processes of democratization or consolidation after regime change. One of the main reasons for this phenomenon is identified as the absence of a sound social welfare system.

A first observation: many observers assume that the civil society in present Eastern Europe is in a state of weakness (cf. Howard 2002; Curtis 2001)1, or even that it is becoming weaker as it was before 1989. There was even pointed out the thesis of a “death of civil society” (cf. Lomax 1997). Secondly, in recent years even in the most successful group of democratizing countries a crisis of representation had emerged. The term “crisis of representative democracy” (Segert 2008) was applied mainly to the following phenomena: ethnic nationalism, racism, the readiness to exclude the political opponent as enemy, and a critical gap between political class (elite) and the population. This “crisis of representative democracy” is closely connected with the state of civil society in Eastern Europe: Ethnic nationalism, political extremism and political violence during political competition are ← 93 | 94 → three phenomena that are summed up by the term “uncivil society” (cf. Kopecký/Cas Mudde: 3)2.

And now the consideration: What is meant by “weak civil society”? Obviously, the opposite...

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