Civil society can be described as the networks of citizens and non-governmental organizations that create a political community — that realm of society that exists outside the direct influence of the marketplace or the state.
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In a seminal essay in Dissent magazine Spring , Michael Walzer defined civil society as "a space of uncoerced human association and Civil society plays an increasingly pivotal role in shaping the post-Cold War world. It had a central part in the shift from communism to Western-style democracy in the former Soviet world, for example, and it is having a growing impact on global movements like the rise of environmentalism, the push for human rights, and the backlash against economic globalization. In the following article, I survey three articles that address the vital role of civil society in shaping global affairs today.
In the first, political philosopher Benjamin Barber examines the impact of global citizen movements, arguing that a new form of borderless activism is emerging today under the banner of transnational non-governmental organizations. In the second, economist Hazel Henderson maintains that international citizen movements represent one of the most powerful and undervalued forces for social innovation today.
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Finally, in an essay adapted from a public speech in , Vaclav Havel makes an eloquent case for what he sees as a new civil ethic emerging in the post-communist era. Each of these articles speaks to the profound and growing importance of citizen movements in creating a more peaceful and sustainable world in the 21st century.
In "Globalizing Democracy," Benjamin Barber argues that the debate over globalization has paid insufficient attention to the role of citizen-led groups. According to Barber, these sorts of movements are having a tremendous positive impact and deserve greater international attention and support. Not only do they promise a measure of "countervailing power" in the international arena as a bulwark against reactionary movements, such as the ultra-Right wing politics of Pat Buchanan or France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, but they also embody a sort of global public opinion.
In Barber's words, "they put flesh on the bare bones of legalistic doctrines and universal rights These new transnational civic spaces offer possibilities for transnational citizenship and hence an anchor for global rights.
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While Barber is generally optimistic about the growing influence of these civic movements, he cautions against overstating their importance. This is a powerful argument and one which I believe deserves greater attention, especially as a counterweight to Thomas Friedman, Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama and other high-profile observers of globalization who have little, if anything, to say about the role of citizens in shaping a new borderless world for the twenty-first century.
As a maverick economist and respected futurist, Hazel Henderson has been making this case for over a decade. In "Social Innovation and Citizen Movements," she examines the growing international significance of the voluntary, civic, or "third" sector comprising various types of innovative citizens organizations. She pays special attention to non-governmental organizations.
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NGOs range from local service clubs, chambers of commerce, and professional associations, to international human rights organizations and global electronic networks. The rise of these types of organizations is "one of the most striking phenomena of the 20th century," she asserts.
One of the most distinctive features of NGOs, in Henderson's view, is that they are oriented toward "preferred futures" and "invoke the possible by mapping social potentials. In this way, NGOs often serve as precursors to national and international governmental institutions by prodding legislators to respond to pressures at the grass-roots level. In addition, NGOs are often quick to find creative and innovative alternatives to social problems.
They can network across national borders, as well as corporate and government boundaries, thereby enabling rapid syntheses of new or previously overlooked information. Government and corporate elites, on the other hand, "often remain ignorant of viable policy alternatives, insulated within top-down hierarchies" from the "inconvenient" views of citizen organizations and the public at large.
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Henderson observes that NGOs are usually founded on a "trickle-up" model — the very opposite of the "elitist, technocratic, trickle-down' promoted by traditional economic development theorists. Henderson believes that the world has become too complex for the traditional global and national institutions. The proliferation of international citizen organizations, transnational corporations, global satellite communications, media companies, and electronic securities and currency trading is gradually undermining the sovereignty and competence of nation-states.
For the employees, this may be a good time to wander around because there are no new tasks, but ask your boss the stress that comes with this.
At home, think of a weekend with no television and cell phone. Actually, these items have become a part of our lives that is indispensable and there is no chance of lacking or losing them. In fact, there is a drastic change compared to the early years where kids used to spend a lot of time with each other or parents playing or just sharing stories. Those evening games after school are over, watching cartoons on a Sunday or playing with friends are no longer there. Technology has taken all our time. Well, this may get the better part of you of how technology has taken the better part of our society, but here are some signs that our generation depends too much on technology.
If you happen to work in offices you may be familiar with this trend.
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If the internet is down, all the tasks are over for the day. No more no less. This is common in almost all offices. This is the most sensitive of them all when it comes to technology.
Technology addiction is on another level with people always checking their text messages and emails every 30 to 40 minutes. The amount of concentration put to these devices something to worry about especially when it comes to dealing with issues in the family. Most of the time we spend worrying about issues such as, is my phone charged enough? Does my camcorder have enough charge to record the live event in an event? If one of them is missing, you try as much as possible to search for it no matter what.
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The result is that you fail to capture and experience the moment since you are busy worried about other things. Well, the choice remains in our hands. We must agree that society is being carried away by the increased inventions being introduced in our lives today.