2000 年 2000 巻 123 号 p. 13-29,L6
The focus of this article is recent development of arguments on the concept of ‘civil society’ in its African context. Although the concept has been used in a variety of contexts, there is no consensus about the exact meaning of ‘civil society.’ In this article, the main purpose is not to determine the content of ‘civil society, ’ but to exploit changing socio-political realities on the African continent by reviewing the transformation of discourses on ‘civil society’ in Africa in the 1990s.
A French Africanist, Jean-Francois Bayart, first introduced this concept in African studies in the early 1980s. However, it was only at the end of 1980s that this concept was popularly used to refer to a variety of actors engaged in the process of democratization. Being stimulated both by democratization in reality and articles by Michael Bratton who emphasized the importance of studies concerning state-society relations in Africa in the coming age, there emerged several research projects related to the concept of ‘civil society.’
In the early 1990s the concept of ‘civil society’ was adopted by donors in the policy documents of international organizations, who regarded the process of democratization necessary and wished to promote it through supporting ‘civil society’ against their historical experiences in the Western World. However, many African specialists have interpreted this as a sort of imposition of the Western version of civil society as ideology.
A Nigerian scholar, Peter Ekeh, developed one of the counter-arguments against this neo-liberal version of ‘civil society’ above. He expanded the sphere of ‘civil society’ to the area so-called ‘primordial public, ’ where associations based on ethnic and ‘traditional’ identities are working. A recent argument developed by Nelson Kasfir shared a lot with Ekeh's in his definition of the concept of ‘civil society.’ Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz raised a criticism against the utility of the concept in the context of Africa, where the state and society are so intertwined.
In conclusion, the following points were raised. The changing discourses of ‘civil society’ clearly showed us the transformation of both socio-political realities in Africa especially in terms of democratization and academic interests. Regarding the latter, some scholars' interests have changed from the state-‘civil society’ relations to social relations and creation of democratic values in the sphere of ‘civil society’ per se. This diversification of interests made the concept of ‘civil society’ more ambiguous. It is necessary for scholars to realize both the usefulness and danger surrounding the concept of ‘civil society.’