People and Civil Society as Resources of Democracy
16 months (May 2011 – August 2012)
- Increase the awareness of politicians and civic activists of the role of collective mobilizations for the better understanding and the consensual reformation of society;
- Improve the communication between politicians and civic activists and facilitate the productive solution of social conflicts.
The last couple of years the Bulgarian public space has known series of civic protests among which were the big strike of the schoolteachers, the protests of the physicians, the protests of students and university professors, as well as those of scientists of the Bulgarian academy of sciences and the filmmakers. In those cases we have witnessed the manifestation, to a different level, of the same double democratic deficit: on the part of the politicians – the incapacity to grasp the productive potential of civic protests; on the part of the protestants – the incapacity to formulate clearly and convincigly the public benefits of their protest. In the core of this broken communication and analytical difficulties lies the misunderstanding of the figures of the «people» and the «civil society» which are the key principles of mobilization and legitimizing (or delegitimizing) of collective actions in a democratic society. The meanings of these principles, along with the political and public stakes risen by them, could differ significantly – they could be used in a conservative or liberal way, in a socialist or nationalist way. The clarification and the differentiation of all these meanings and of their practical usages would facilitate the cooperation between politicians and citizens and make Bulgarian democracy work better, whilst their ongoing confusion would block the dialogue between politicians and citizens and multiply the non productive controversies.
The projects will focus on three interrelated goals:
- Contribute to increase the awereness of both politicians and civic acitivists of the role of collective mobilizations as a vital resource of democracy providing the opportunity of a better understanding and a consensual reformation of society;
- Allow a better evaluation of the social significance of collective mobilizations on both sides: so that politicans should be capable of grasping their reformist potential and work out of it produtive policies, and social actors should be capable of better formulating publicly acceptable causes and better articulating the public benefits they imply;
- Improve considerably the communication between politicans and civic activists in order to avoid clashes of misunderstnding and facilitate the solution of social conflicts.
The broader goal should be attained through the following steps:
- Clarify and differentiate the public meanings of «people» and «civil society» as fundamental mobilizing and legitimizing principles of collective actions in a democratic society;
- Improve the reciprocal understanding of politicians and civic activists on the basis of the shared comprehension of the terms and of their implementation to collective mobilizations;
- Change the roles of politicians and civic activists in order to relativize the position of each of the two groups, increase the reflexivity of the participants and make them more sensitive to the perspective of the other group;
- Stimulate the criticism of participants, based on convincing arguments, toward their own positions as well as toward the position of the other group;
- Give a broader impact, through the organization of a public event, to the problem of collective mobilizations and their role in a democratic society;
Create an analytical tool as a key reference point to collective mobilizations to be used by both politicians and civic activists as well as by a larger public.
- Politicians from the parliamentary represented political parties (alumni from the Bulgarian school of politics);
- Rerpesentatives of student councils from several universities (University of Sofia «St. Kliment Ohridski», New Bulgarian University, University of Mining and Geology «St. Ivan Rilski», National Academy of Theater and Film Arts).
The project aims at achieving its objectives through the following activities:
- Organizing series of workshops and lectures with each of the target groups: young politicians (alumni from the Bulgarian School of Politics) and representatives of student councils from several universities. The workshops and lectures would focus on the following six topics:
- How (not) to become a populist? Populist movements in contemporary Europe (comparative analysis);
- What the people does it represent? Social and national aspects in the concept of “people”;
- Who is the authentic citizen? Civil society as a resource for collective mobilizations in Eastern and Central Europe during the 90-ties.
- How to click at the square? New media, new mobilizations;
- Who is ruling (instead of) the “people”? Leftist critiques of the rightist articulations of the “civil society”;
- Who is ruling (instead of) the citizens? Rightist critiques of the leftist articulations of the “people”.
- Elaborating a special handbook defining and classifying the main usages of the terms “people” and “civil society” in the Bulgarian public space with respect to the legitimacy or the illegitimacy of collective mobilizations. The handbook will be focused on the usages of these terms by politicians from different political parties and by experts from different research centers and NGOs. The elaboration of the handbook will be based on already available results from research projects realized by the teams of the Human and Social Study Foundation and the Research Center for Social Studies. The volume will include also special contributions by analysts from the EU on the topic: “The “people” and “civil society” as resources of democracy”.
- Organizing a TV debate with the participation of representatives of both target groups that will be centered on the topic of the social advantages and social disadvantages of collective mobilizations.