Archive for September, 2008

Globalization, Social Welfare and Civil Society in India

Globalization is being understood differently by different people. Fukuyama (1992) has referred it as the “end of history”, which established democracy as “the only legitimate and viable alternative to an authoritarian regime of any kind” (Huntington, 1992, p. 58). Where as, political theorists like Ohmae (1995), considering the vulnerabilities of the nation-states, have pronounced the “end of the nation-state”. Though it remains as an empirical question to see whether nation-states have lost their significance or not, one thing is clear that the existing state-society relationship in developing countries have undergone metamorphosis due to the policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization.



Following a historical analysis of the state-society relationship in India, the paper seeks to analyze the effects of globalization on Indian civil society. It argues that civil society during the colonial and early post-colonial period remained confined to the English educated upper caste elites and the subaltern populations were excluded from the public sphere because of the virtues of modernity and the paternalistic policies of post-colonial state and ruling elites. The decline of the moderate state and the Congress system in mid-1970s and the policies of globalization and the rolling back of the welfare state in mid-1980s transformed the state-society relationship and brought incongruous implications for civil society in India. The apparatus of the state became pluralized and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and people’s movements emerged to take up issues affecting the lives of poor and marginalized.


The paper concludes that though globalization has radicalized civil society activism and expanded its sphere over the past few years, in the process, it has turned civil society into a site of increasing class war, widespread violence and growing unfreedom. If civil society has to achieve freedom, democracy and social justice, it needs to move beyond its middle class orientation and transform itself as a more inclusive and more right based sphere of political activism.