Social Capital, Governance, and the West; The Paradoxes of Civil Society in the Arab Region

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: Booth 45
Distributed Paper
Muna ALGHURAIBI , The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


“Social Capital, Governance, And The West; The Paradoxes of Civil Society in The Arab Region”



By Muna AlGhuraibi

Department of sociology and social Policy, University of Sydney





Many societies around the world have adopted—either by choice or by force—liberal democratic systems of governance, often to the detriment of their pre-existing social structures. This process has been driven by the worldwide spread of a political principle: that the optimal system of social organization is characterized by strong civil societies, underpinned by social capital, capable of acting independently of state control. Some scholars have suggested that global civil society is spreading cosmopolitan values and thereby enabling the development of modern liberal democracies throughout the world.  Others believe that the concepts of civil society and social capital are inextricably tied to specific social, economic, and political backgrounds, rendering them applicable only to Western societies. This paper considers the Arab region, where regulations are devolved and enforced through tribal coalitions on the one hand, and tribe-state alliances on the other. Many Arabian societies reject the concept of civil society as a foreign philosophy that has stemmed from liberal democracy rather than their Arabic literature to which they are strongly connected. The paper argues that Arab societal ideologies and tribal structures have fundamentally shaped understandings of civil society and social capital, and how these ideas play out on the ground.


Keywords: Social Capital, Civil Society, Collective Society, Arab countries, autocratic government