Civil Society in Algeria
The Political Functions of Associational Life
Routledge – 2009 – 228 pages
Between 1987 and today Algeria has been engaged in a conflict pitching the army against Islamist guerilla groups which has killed more than 200.000 people. During the same period, Algeria also witnessed the explosion of more than 70,000 voluntary associations, making it one of the most civic-dense countries in the Arab world. This book analyses the development of these association in Algeria and the state’s attempt to retain political legitimacy.
Starting from a critique of portrayals of Algerian ‘civil society’ as a force conducive to democratization, the study examines the changing relationship of the state to voluntary associations in both the colonial and post-colonial eras. An in-depth assessment of the social bases of the associative sphere then leads to questioning its independence from the state, and highlights the role of the associative sector in tempering the fracture between the state and those social groups that most suffered from the collapse of Algeria’s post colonial political framework. Finally, the study analyses donors’ use of advocacy and service-delivery associations in democracy-promotion programmes, arguing that their focus on the country’s ‘civil society’ contributed to the state’s efforts to preserve its international legitimacy.
Based on in-depth examination of existing literature and extensive fieldwork conducted at a time when Algeria was still closed to foreign researchers because of the conflict, Andrea Liverani challenges the mainstream views on the political role of associations in democracy, illustrating how ‘civil society’ can work towards the conservation of an authoritarian order, rather than simply towards democratic change. A lucid contribution to an emerging scholarship, Civil Society in Algeria will appeal to students, academic experts, and NGO/aid practitioners.
1. Civil society in weak states 1.1 Introduction 1.2 Algeria’s weak state 1.3 Civil society in liberalised autocracies 1.4 The political functions of associational life 1.5 Researching Algerian associational life 2. From repression to instrumental use: associational life through colonial and postcolonial times 2.1 Introduction 2.2 Cafes, nadis, and sport clubs in the demise of colonial Algeria 2.3 Independence, incorporation and repression 2.4 From repression to instrumental use 2.5 Conclusions 3. Outsourcing failure: state insulation and scapegoat politics in Algeria 3.1 Introduction 3.2 Structural disadjustment as insulation failure 3.3 Insulation revisited 3.4 Introducing the scapegoats 3.5 Diverting discontent 3.6 Preserving factional equilibria 3.7 From state failure to civic failure 3.8 Conclusions 4. Out of trust? Presidents and families versus Algeria’s associative decay 4.1 Introduction 4.2 Social capital in Algeria 4.3 Associative decay 4.4 Out of distrust 4.5 Surviving decay: associative presidentialism 4.6 Surviving decay II: associative familism 4.7 Conclusions 5. Algerian associations from voice to loyalty 5.1 Introduction 5.2 Post-independence loyalty, political exit and civic voice 5.3 The social bases of associational life 5.4 From state-class to associative class? The rise, fall and exit of Algeria’s public sector strata 5.5 The associative sphere as political settlement 5.6 From state distribution to distributive associations 5.7 Patrons and clients in associations 5.8 Conclusions 6. Party bypass: associational life and the management of political pluralism 6.1 Introduction: Algerian parties and their discontented 6.2 Hyperpluralism in Algeria 6.3 Associations and parties: from alliance to distance? 6.4 Associations and the state: from opposition to collusion 6.5 Managing associative pluralism 6.7 From electoral committees to civic associations, and back 6.8 Conclusions: associational life and the departification of Algerian politics 7. Civic engagement: Algeria’s associative sphere and the international arena 7.1 Introduction 7.2 Threatened civility: associations in the international limelight 7.3 In search of civic voices 7.4 Grassroots legitimacy 7.5 Democracy promotion between stability and change 7.6 The anti-politics of civil society support 7.7 Reaching out to the state 7.8 Conclusions 8. Conclusions 8.1 Institutional cloaking versus political change 8.2 Sheltered grassroots, Faustian pacts? 8.3 Transformational diplomacy References Annex A. List of persons interviewed Annex B. Associations registered at the Maison des Associations in Bologhine.
Andrea Liverani gained a PhD from the Development Studies Institute of the London School of Economics. In addition to his work on civil society in the Middle East and North Africa region, he has published extensively on development aid policy and management, and has held positions for various international organizations including the OECD and the World Bank.