Workshop: “Civil Society” development and transformation of authoritarian regimes

15th Feb 2013
EHESS, Paris

Workshop organized by Chloé Froissart (Rennes 2 University, CECMC) and Anthony J. Spires (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) under the PROCORE France-Hong-Kong joint research program, the Center for Research on Modern and Contemporary China, School for Higher Studies in Social Sciences and the Asia-
Pacific Research and Expertise Network

Friday, February 15, 2013
Room 640, block A, EHESS 190-198 avenue de France 75013 Paris

The development of social organizations and protest movements is one of the outstanding
phenomena of the transformation of authoritarian regimes such as China and Cuba, but also of
newly “democratized” countries whose institutional modes of functioning remain chiefly
authoritarian, such as Russia. Beyond the ambiguity of the term “civil society” exported from
twenty years by the actors of international cooperation, this workshop will investigate citizen
mobilization to defend the rights of other citizens and how it serves to transform authoritarian
regimes from within.

We propose to overcome divisions between a deterministic perspective, which has long
prevailed in political science -that of transitology- and a purely sociological perspective only
focused on practices and discourses of social actors, to take into account the relationship
between the social and the political. Following authors like Dabène, Camau and Massardier1
who focus on regime hybridity, we’ll try to think through how elements of democracy and
authoritarianism co-exist in a particular political system. By questioning the opposition
between democratic and authoritarian regimes, often regarded as irreconcilable, we take into
account the process of democratization within authoritarian regimes and focus reflection on
the modes of adaptation and transformation of this type of regime.

How, in the light of collective action, in particular the essential dimension of the organization,
can we analyze operating modes of authoritarian regimes and thus attempt to define their
nature? Three areas will be investigated. First, the relationship between social organizations
and the state: beyond the evolution of the legal framework, we focus on the actual practices of
social actors to illuminate conflicts and arrangements that form between the representatives of
the State and those of the non-governmental realm. Second, the use of law as a new
mobilization resource and how it promotes (or not) political pluralism and new forms of
representation. Third, the relationship between political socialization, mobilization and
participation. Finally, the workshop will conclude with a reflection on how we can understand
the nature of authoritarian regimes by the study of collective action.

Download the Program as PDF


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