Civil or uncivil society? Social movements in Central and Eastern Europe
Social and Political Sciences European University Institute San Domenico di Fiesole, Italy
In Central and Eastern Europe after the transformation of 1989 there was a need for civil society actors. Their presence was meant to be a measurement for the quality of democracy in the new states. Some of the patterns of the new-born activism were directly taken from Western countries but the 'third sphere' does not seem to catch much attention until today. Parallel, large groups were left, especially in the beginning, without any representation and the empty space was filled by more radical and less structured groups. These groups, using globalization-critical rhetorics, are still outnumbered in comparison with their western counterparts, but they are present in the public discourse and seem to have a significant impact on the public opinion.
The concept of Kopecky and Mudde of the uncivil society (2003) overlaps to large extent with these radical groups and is used to analyze them, although some criteria (for example the use of violence) seem to be controversial. By giving a critique this concept I would like to argue that some of these movements are in fact an important part of the civil society in the region, adding up with NGOs.
Moreover, basing on the data collected during my ethnographic fieldwork in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, I would like to point the reasons for existing tensions as well as show examples and areas where fruitful cooperation takes place. Playing different roles in the public space these two kinds of groups do cooperate sometimes and are able to form coalitions, although their methods, tactics and aims are different. Because of their radicalism, the less structured groups (which some scholars tend to call alterglobalists) are better in channeling and using the anger and the need to resistance which are a by-product of the economic transformation; they are also much more present in the mass media.