Accion e ideologia by Ignacio Martin-Baro

By Ignacio Martin-Baro

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Foucault (1977) challenged the prevailing view that the Enlightenment brought in a new respect for the rights of the individual as citizen. Foucault associates the Enlightenment with the transition of methods of social control from the public display of punishment to more insidious means, from torture to discipline. Surveillance and discipline are, he argues, tools of the modern state first developed in the Prussian army to straighten those who deviate from the ‘common good’. Concealed, or justified in terms of the collective good, such practices in fact (Foucault argued) benefit a powerful elite.

Much of the recent discussion of civil society concerns the engagement between civil organisations and Civil society and social cohesion 45 the state. To appreciate how such engagement occurs, however, we need to look at a broader field of organisations and investigate the circumstances that bring about their political mobilisation at particular times. A functional definition that specifies what role civil society should play in relation to the state (whether it should oppose or uphold state policy) will inevitably be qualified by the writer’s evaluation of the state.

I have argued that, to avoid prejudice, a descriptive definition is necessary, defining civil society as ‘the social structures occupying the space between the household and the state that enable people to co-ordinate their management of resources and activities’. Much of the recent discussion of civil society concerns the engagement between civil organisations and Civil society and social cohesion 45 the state. To appreciate how such engagement occurs, however, we need to look at a broader field of organisations and investigate the circumstances that bring about their political mobilisation at particular times.

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