Civil Society in Mozambique: A Social Movement Perspective

For too long the discourse on civil society has been dominated by a Western conception based on classical liberal perceptions. We propose instead a social movement optic which foregrounds the struggle for social transformation. This paper focuses on the dynamics of rural social movements concerned with the re-appropriation of land ownership and livelihood strategies and their interface with Western-type NGOs in Mozambique. In order to decolonize and produce new knowledge about current of civil society dynamics grounded theory has been applied. We contest the North-centric discourse adopted by Western type NGOs (national and international) and show how these organizations actions can exclude much of the grassroots social interaction deemed ‘anti-development‘ or ’uncivil’ and thus not part of duly recognized civil society. Using the example of civil society involvement in the government (Brazil, Japan, Mozambique) supported Agri-Business Project ProSavana a brief overview of alternative actors at district, provincial, national and international level, as well as new spiritual-religious movements, is provided. Contextual influences of land ownership and new ties of solidarity on civil society development and on citizens openness to opt for strategies of resistance rather than dialogue and consensus-building are explained. The exclusion of many local actors, in particular religious and spiritual actors, in mainstream modernization and civil society theory, goes against some of the locally rooted civil society conceptions we identified. We propose a new conceptual framing of civil society generated from the experiences of African countries which differs from the mainstream Western liberal theory of civil society and focuses on social movement formation and actions.
Tanja Kleibl . Dublin City University
Jeremias Vunjanhe . ADECRU

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