|Trans||Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften||15. Nr.||August 2004|
Hrvoje Butkovic (Zagreb, Croatia)(1)
The contribution analyses different approaches to civil society in published research papers in Croatia and examines published results of empirical research conducted in the area of civil society in Croatia. It presents different definitions of civil society used in Croatian scientific discourse as well as various aspects of civil society - cultural, media, social, religious, etc. examined by Croatian social scientists. Civil society, which was marginalized during the socialist period in Croatia, lost the main obstacles to its development in 1990. While articles published in the first half of the nineties were predominantly concerned with civil society as a theoretical construct, in a more recent period Croatian researchers are showing more interest in examining practical present realities and the current trends in the development of civil society.
Writings by Croatian authors on civil society have increased exponentially in recent years. The area is increasingly regarded by Croatian social scientists as a highly relevant arena of investigation, and one which is central to the on-going, post-communist process of democratisation and decentralisation. This presentation aims to provide a very brief overview of some of the published works in this emerging area of social science research.
In the first part of the presentation I will give a brief review on how the research in Croatia on civil society has evolved since it began in the late 1980s. I will give particular emphasis to the early research, definitions of civil society and contemporary research. It will be noted that early research concentrated more on theory, while in the subsequent period works have predominately focused on empirical research.
In the second part, due to the quantity of articles published in Croatia on the subject, I will start by reviewing the relationship between civil society and religion. In light of the theme of the conference I will continue by observing civil society from the cultural and media perspective.
The written materials used to develop this presentation were accessed through the electronic catalogue of the National and University Library in Zagreb. It is interesting to note that the term "civil society" is not recognised as a distinct key phrase in the catalogue, and so other key words such as "bourgeois society", "non-governmental associations", "non-governmental organisations", "third sector", and "voluntary sector" were keyed in, in order to identify relevant articles and publications. As a second step, the catalogue was searched according to the names of known authors. Additional materials were identified through references cited within the articles. 72 titles were collected that refer to civil society in Croatia. This presentation will briefly mention a number of the key works.
In the mid 1980s a debate began in Slovenia (Croatia's immediate neighbour) on the concept of a "socialist civil society", between supporters and opponents of political pluralism. (Gantar, P.; Mastnak, T. 1988). This debate resided primarily within academia; however, it also entered the arena of contemporary politics (Mastnak, T. 1994). The advocates of "socialist civil society" saw the concept as a paradigm of leftist transformation for both Western and Eastern European societies (Pokrovac, Z. 1988). Advocates of that term in Slovenia (as well as in some other socialist states) called for the creation of a "post-socialist" society with some elements of the pluralistic civil society within the existing communist legal framework; i.e. they stopping short of adopting a Western, multi-party model of democracy (Mesic, M. 1991). However, it is important to emphasise that the majority of Slovenian scholars opposed this concept, claiming that the term "socialist civil society" was nonsense, a contradiction and conceptually impossible (Gantar, P.; Mastnak, T. 1988).
Discussions about civil society began to emerge in Croatia in the late 1980s, although it should be noted that these were less evolved and frequent than those in neighbouring Slovenia. This is probably due to the fact that discussions on civil society in Croatia at that time had not entered the domain of contemporary politics. The civil society debate in Croatia as well as other parts of former Yugoslavia was greatly influenced not only by Slovenian discussions, but also by foreign social science researchers such as: John Keane, Manfred Riedel and Andrew Arto, who, in the late 1980s, frequently attended scientific conferences and meetings in the region (Pogledi, 1988; Gradansko drustvo i drzava, 1991). Their theoretical papers, which to an important extent informed the work of Croatian authors, examined the historic development of the "civil society" phenomenon and analysed contemporary public social relationships in Eastern European countries.
As with the aforementioned foreign authors, research undertaken by Croatian authors on the subject drew from work of a historic and theoretical nature. The vast number of these papers attempted to explain the term "civil society" through the evolution of its meaning, as defined by European social scientist between the 16th and the 18th century such as: - Hobbes, Locke, Ferguson, Rousseau, and especially Hegel (Vugrinec, S. 1990; Barbaric, D. 1991; Prpic, I. 1991; Zakosek, N. 1991; Pusic, V. 1993).
Academic discussions on the theory of civil society only began to focus on more contemporary issues and sources in the mid-1990s.
In the mid 1990s concerted attempts were made by Croatian social scientists to include clear definitions of the term civil society in their papers. Initially, they took definitions from foreign scholars such as Salvador Giner(2), Robert Wuthnow(3), Lester Salamon & Helmut Anhier(4), W. L. Adamson(5), and Larry Diamond(6). Recently, however, Croatian authors have attempted to develop their own definitions of civil society, although the influence of foreign authors is still present. I would like to focus on two particular definitions; Nenad Zakosek (2000) and Gojko Bezovan (2002).
>According to Nenad Zakosek (2000), the debates that took place in mid 1980's crystallised two definitions of the civil society. A broader definition, made a clear distinction between the state and the independent actions of individuals and groups working to promote the interests of their constituencies. Civil society is seen as a distinct area of action and communication, where these non-state entities attempt to achieve their interests through non-violent means. Civil society in that sense includes the activities of individuals as well as of a broad spectrum of associations and organisations, ranging from profit-oriented economic actors, political parties and religious organisations to social movements, unions and civil initiatives.
Zakosek's narrower definition defines civil society as an action area of individuals and associations that do not limit themselves exclusively to promoting their private interests, but which seek to influence the general well-being of society (the public good), based on principles of tolerance, consensus and non-violence.
In 2002 Gojko Bezovan presented a definition of civil society that was developed by a group of researchers working on the international scientific project entitled "The Structure of civil society in Croatia". Here, civil society is defined as: "The area of institutions, organisations, networks and individuals (with their values) which is located between the family, the state and the market, and which is connected by commonly shared civil rules, and where people associate on a voluntary basis, in order to promote common interests".
Other Croatian scholars have created definitions of civil society which lie somewhere in between Zakosek and Bezovan's conceptualisations - those include: Milan Mesic (1990)(7), Rade Kalanj (1998)(8), Josip Kregar (1999)(9), Ivan Prpic (2000)(10) and Neven Simac (2001)(11).
In recent years, in Croatia and across the world, there has been a clear shift in focus with regards research on Civil Society, from theory to empirical research. This has resulted in far more attention being placed on research into the role, nature and function of civil society organisations (including NGOs) in society. In the 1990's many Croatian social scientists ware critical of the Croatian government's attitude towards civil society. This is partly due to authors attempting to highlight deficiencies of the existing legislative framework regarding the civil sector and to influence the Croatian government to create a more enabling environment for civil society organization (Bezovan, G. 1995; Beus Richembergh, G. 1995; Zrinscak, S. 1998a; Ivanovic, M. 1999; Plavsa-Matic, C. 1999; Ivanovic, M. 2000; Karzen, M.; Skrabalo, M. 2001).
In 2002 Gojko Bezovan published a complex article presenting the structure of civil society in Croatia. The article, whose definition was highlighted earlier, is based on the results of extensive empirical research and provides a detailed picture of the newly created social situation.(12)
Some of the key elements of his findings were as follows. The war conditions in Croatia (1991-95) influenced the development of a large number of new humanitarian and socially-focussed organizations. Compared with other transitional countries, Croatia lacks "think-tank" organizations. In the past ten years in Croatia, like other transitional countries, the phenomenon known as the "virtual civil society" has developed. Croatian civil society organizations (CSO) generally have low membership rates. Members tend to be inactive rather than proactive. Croatian CSOs are unevenly distributed throughout the country. There are a large number of registered organizations that are inactive. Only 4% of organizations in Croatia have active volunteers.(13)
According to Bezovan, the principal problems preventing the further sustainable development of the civil society sector in Croatia include: the disconnection and lack of coordination within the civil society sector, the lack of specific education and experience of its activists and financial constraints.
Mirna Karzen and Marina Skrabalo recently published a report assessing civil society in Croatia (Karzen, M.; Skrabalo, M. 2001).(14)
One of the findings of the research was that Croatian organizations seem to be most effective in the protection of human rights, minority rights and in raising public awareness about a range of social issues. The survey also highlighted that the greatest weaknesses of CSOs relate to presenting and communicating their work to others and to mutual cooperation.
If one considers the totality of writings on the civil society sector in Croatia over the past decade, it is interesting to note that the largest group of articles has dealt with the connection between religion and civil society. This is partly due to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church has focused heavily on this area in its various and numerous publications.
The principal difficulty in considering the religious aspects of civil society lies in the undefined place of religion in today's society - i.e. some would argue that religious organisations are not necessarily part of civil society. However, in the context of this article, I will take the view, as argued by Zakosek, that different types of religious organisations fall within both the broader and narrower definition of civil society.(15)
In Catholic circles, the concept of civil society has primarily been viewed and understood within the writings of the theological branch known as the "Social Teachings of the Church", which seeks to rationalise the role of the Church in the modern world (Baloban, S. 2000b).
According to the interpretation of the Social Teachings of the Church, the state is a subsidiary institution of society in general (which includes civil society), with the role of insuring law and order as well as the protection of those weaker and socially vulnerable (Sagi, B. Z. 1999).
The importance of civil society to the Church was reflected in the pronouncements of the 2nd Vatican council (1962-65), and in the discourse of the Church in the post-communist period, where cooperation with civil society organisations was viewed as a priority area. (Valkovic, M. 2001). Cooperation between the Church and CSOs is currently being enacted through the activities of congregation laymen and through different laymen associations (Baloban, S. 2000a).
According to Catholic authors, the Roman Catholic Church during the communist period in Croatia played an important role in preserving religious and national consciousness and in passing on traditional universal values (Baloban, S. 1997). According to these authors, during the communist period the Church itself was a pillar civil society organization (Zrinscak, S. 1995; Puljiz, V. 2000). During the Homeland War (1991-95) the humanitarian role of the Catholic Church, primarily through Caritas and the International Red Cross, was very important (Puljiz, V. 2000). Today, the Church through its affiliated organisations continues to play a major role in various aspects of the social and voluntary sector, helping needy and vulnerable groups.(16)
However, certain authors have questioned the value and the implications of this extensive role in terms of the development of an independent civil society (Zrinscak, S. 1998; Bezovan, G. 1995).
It is important to emphasise the multi-faith nature of Croatian society. Apart from religious organizations that are active in the frame of traditional and historically present religions - Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, Protestantism and Islam - there are numerous, less mainstream religious organizations operating in Croatia. Some of these, including the Jehovah's witnesses, Mormons or the Hare Krishna movement, were active in Croatia even before 1990, while others, like, for example, the United Church of Sun Myng Moon, have been active here only in the post-communist period (Kolaric, J. 1997).
In reviewing the religious aspect of civil society in Croatia, it is useful to examine three large research projects - namely: "Faith and Morals in Croatia - 1998", "European Research of Values - EVS 1999" and "Structure of Civil Society in Croatia - 2002". Results of "The Faith and Morals in Croatia" showed that the Roman Catholic Church is the organization which enjoys the highest level of trust in society (Baloban, S.; Rimac, I. 1998).(17)
89.7% of polled individuals declared themselves as Catholics, however some other indicators in the research demonstrate that the term "catholic" in Croatia should not always be viewed in strictly congregational sense (Crpic, G.; Kusar, S. 1998). The research also highlighted that Croatian citizens significantly accept, practice or approve of some New Age religious practices, rituals and beliefs which are alternatives to Christianity (Crpic, G.; Jukic, J. 1998).
The Third European Research on Values - EVS 1999 in Croatia in one of its surveys that targeted citizens involved in CSOs found that 12. 2% of interrogated individuals belong to religious associations.(18)
5.8% of these were an active member that is to say, they did voluntary work for such associations (Baloban, J; Crpic, G; Rimac, I. 2000).
The aforementioned research project "Structure of Civil Society in Croatia", which targeted individuals working within the civil society sector, showed that 3.68% of interrogated individuals worked for religious associations (Bezovan, G. 2002). The comparison between findings of the "European Research of Values" and the "Structure of Civil Society in Croatia" highlights the fact that the number of civil society religious associations in Croatia is relatively small but that they have a lot of both passive and active members.
The nature of the relationship between civil society and culture has rarely been addressed in Croatian research papers on the civil society. However, it is important to note that in the last few years social science researchers have begun to establish a link between civil society and its influence on the future development of culture.
Rade Kalanj (1998) views the transition towards cultural pluralism in Croatia and in other post-communist countries as being limited. The ideological monopoly on the construction culture which existed under the communist systems has been abolished. As a consequence, culture is no longer exclusively the consideration of the state, with a whole range of ideological-based forms of cultural expression being legitimised. This has opened the space for the civil society's wider involvement in the domain of culture. The problem, however, according to Kalanj, is that in the current context of transitional societies, the importance of ideology in culture has not been reduced but rather pluralised.
Inevitably, the war and post-war conditions in Croatia have had their effects on the cultural environment. The consumption of the products of high culture (i.e. literature, concerts, theatre performances, etc.) has actually fallen compared to that before the war (Bosnar, S.; Schramadei, P. 1998). Vjeran Katunaric (2001) has argued that, having achieved a climate of freedom of expression which is a prerequisite for cultural creativity, Croatia still needs to obtain other conditions necessary for the further development of culture, including the development of appropriate legal frameworks, the funding of the sector, and the educational and administrative reforms which remove the barriers to creativity, etc. According to Katunaric, the state in Croatia is, in practice, the only protector of the cultural heritage and the main promoter of new production in the area of culture (Katunaric, V. 2001). In this regard, it is interesting to note that the majority of CSOs active in the area of culture depend almost entirely on domestic state and private financial sources (Bezovan, G. 2002). Katunaric stresses the importance of civil society for culture (Katunaric, V. 1999). He stresses that it is necessary to expand the meaning of culture beyond the institutional framework of the state.
The aforementioned research project "Structure of civil society in Croatia", which targeted individuals working within the civil society sector, identified 4.25% of its respondents as belonging to the culture and art sub-section of civil society (Bezovan, G. 2002). Previously mentioned European Research of Values - EVS 1999 study in one of its surveys that targeted citizens involved in CSO's, identified 7.8% its respondents as being members of culture and art organizations (Baloban, J.; Crpic, G.; Rimac, I. 2000). The EVS 1999 study here also noted that 4.2% of its respondents were active members of those associations.
Statistical tables in the publication "Spona" (a bulletin of the Government Office for Associations) revealed that since 2000 the Office spent between 5-10% of its overall budget on culture and art projects run by CSOs (Spona. 2000; Spona. 2002; Spona. 2003). Mirna Karzen and Marina Skrabalo in their previously mentioned research showed that cultural CSOs count amongst the most active within the sector.
Due to its exceptional importance in the development of Croatian culture, it is necessary to briefly mention Matica Hrvatska (Matrix Croatica). Established in 1842 as a society for the promotion of Croatian culture, this organisation today presents itself as an independent, non-profit and non-governmental organization. During the period of Communism, and particularly after the Croatian national and cultural uprising in the 1970s, its work was heavily monitored and hampered by the Yugoslav regime. It was even banned in 1980 (Bratulic, J. 2002). Apart from its publishing activities, this association arranges a multitude of cultural and scientific events. Its most important financing sources are: membership fee, the state budget and its publishing activities (Zidic, I. 2002).
As with the sphere of culture, very little research has been undertaken by national researchers of the civil society on the relationship between the media and civil society in Croatia.
The media belongs to politics and to public life in the broadest sense. It shapes a picture of reality that is of concern to all sections of the state and society (Perusko, Z. 2001). A free media represents a permanent link between citizens and their government and is central to a democratic society (Simac, N. 2001). Zrinjka Perusko points out that in the 1990s the media made great progress compared to the pre-transition period. Free media organizations no longer needed the approval of the state in order to be created and were no longer subject to forms of state censorship. That said, the weak political culture in Croatia in the 1990s diluted the impact of these legal changes, and it can be argued that a level of implicit and explicit censorship still existed.
The failure of the media's democratization process during the 1990s is illustrated in the findings of the aforementioned "Faith and Morals Research in Croatia" conducted in 1998. In that study, the media was singled out as the institution in which citizens have the lowest level of trust (Baloban, S.; Rimac, I. 1998). Mirko Matausic and Ivan Rimac (2000), in interpreting the findings of the "European Research of Values"- EVS/1999, concluded that Croatian citizens still do not consider the media as an independent, non-state, democratic institution. Rather, they viewed the media as an integral part of the government, which demonstrates a continued mind-frame inherited from the communist social system.
Since the turn of the new millennium, Zrinjka Perusko (2001) argues that the further democratisation and development of the media in Croatia, has been hindered more by the insufficient professionalism of journalists than by state interference. Marijan Valkovic (2000) considers that the future development of the civil society is dependent upon the actions of the media. Obstacles that in the 1990s hampered relations between the media and the civil society are no longer present. However, communication problems are still significant. CSOs need to learn how to present their work in the media in an attractive and compelling way (Stanic, T. 1999). In other words, the civil society lacks the skills for dealing with and influencing the media (Karzen, M.; Skrabalo, M. 2001). The promotion of civil society initiatives in the Croatian media has been limited; however, a positive trend in the right direction can be identified. (Karzen, M.; Skrabalo, M. 2001). Mirna Karzen and Marina Skarbalo also concluded that the lack of representation of CSOs in the media is one of the biggest problems facing civil society in Croatia (2001).
Civil society and the media in a free democratic society are intrinsically linked. In the context of pluralistic societies, the free media and a well-developed civil society are key indicators of a successful democratisation process.
In Croatia, just as in other transitional countries, theoretical works on civil society from the late 1980s and the early 1990s evolved in the subsequent period into works predominately focused on empirical research. The war conditions in Croatia (1991-95) influenced the establishment of several particular aspects in the civil society's development which were recorded in national scientific research papers.
Judging by the sheer number of scientific works that are being published today on this subject, it is clear that the concept of civil society is viewed, within the social science research arena, as a central and critical element in Croatia's development towards greater democracy and pluralism.
That said, the absence of published written research focusing on cultural and media aspects of civil society is of concern. The development of a truly pluralistic and inclusive cultural environment can only arise through the active involvement of grassroots-focused civil society actors. Similarly, the further development of CSOs will to a great extent depend on their ability to create synergistic and mutually beneficial relations with the various media actors. It is hoped that civil society researchers in Croatia will increase their attention to these neglected areas.
© Hrvoje Butkovic (Zagreb, Croatia )
(1) Hrvoje Butkovic is Research Assistant at the Department for Culture and Communication Institute for International Relations (IMO), Ul. Lj. F. Vukotinovica 2, 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia.
(2) Rogiaisic, Z. (1988) uses the definition from, Giner, S. Withering Away of Civil Society. Praxis International. 5, 3 (1985). Giner determines: "The Civil Society is developed within the socio-historical sphere of individual rights, freedoms and voluntary associations. Its political autonomy and competence in the guidance of the private affairs, interests and intentions of the citizens is guaranteed by the state".
(3) Zrinscak, S. (1995) uses the definition from Wuthnow, R. (ed.). Between States and the Markets. The Voluntary Sector in Comparative Perspectives / Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1991. Wuthnow determines: "Apart from the two key areas the state and the market there are a range of different organizations and institutions that are critical to social development. The state is characterized by coercion, the market by profit orientation, while this third area is mostly characterized by voluntary action and association".
(4) Bezovan, G. (1996) and Ledic, J. (1996) use the definition from Salamon, L.M.; Anhier, H. K. In search of the non-profit sector I: The question of definitions. Voluntas. 3, 2 (1992). Salamon & Anhier determine: "The third sector is a group of organizations that are formal, private, non-profit, self-executive and voluntary".
(5) Puljiz, V. (2000) uses the definition from, Adamson, W. Gramsci and the Politics of Civil Society. Praxis International. 7, 3-4 (1988). Adamson determines: "Civil Society is a separate sphere from both public state, bureaucratic and economic structures, as well as from the private domain which includes the family, personality and direct relations, the so-called "Primary social horizon".
(6) Valkovic, M. (2000) uses the definition from, Diamond, L. Rethinking Civil Society: Toward Democratic Consolidation. Journal of Democracy. 5, 3 (1994). Diamond determines: "Civil Society refers to institutions and manifestations of organized social life that are grounded in volunteerism, which supplement and complement each other, which associate with each other, that are autonomous from the state, which respect legal order and generally accepted social values".
(7) Mesic, M. determines: "Civil Society is a theory-base analytical tool used for the comparative analysis of societies' social development processes, especially regarding their democratization and humanisation".
(8) Kalanj, R. determines: "Civil Society is a counter-balance and remedy to formal state power. It is a tangle of institutions and organizations that prevent state centralization, oligarchization, and arbitrary actions. It is the sphere of free play and articulation of interests that mediate between individual-civil requests and decisions made and enforced by the state apparatus".
(9) Kregar, J. determines: "Civil Society is a sphere of voluntary organizations and associations. It is an informal network of organized individuals engaged in public affairs. Civil society differs from the classical state in that it is principally based on voluntariness. It could be differentiated from the sphere of private activities because its aspirations are formed by public good, in the interest of the community, rather than by private market-based aspirations and ideas".
(10) Prpic, I. determines: "Civil Society is society where freely associated citizens interested in the survival and prosperity of the community promote the general good. In so doing these citizens either attempt to find solutions to certain problems that are hampering the establishment of the public good, or they promote the interests of certain power centres".
(11) Simac, N. determines: "Civil Society characterizes all the various kinds of gathering mobilisation and actions performed by the citizens (associations, unions, clubs, movements...). These actions belong neither to the state nor to the private or religious sphere. They fill the space of civil initiatives and labour placed between state power and spiritual authorities"
(12) Research has been conducted on a sample of 353 examinees. Out of these 275 worked for the civil society sector, while 78 were representatives of subjects important for the development of civil society.
(13) This data was transferred from unpublished research conducted by the same author in 1997 on the sample of 548 Croatian CSOs.
(14) The Report is largely based on interviews with civil society activists and on empirical research. The research was based on interviews with 150 non-governmental organizations and 50 large Croatian firms.
(15) In this chapter, when discussing entities that fall within Zakosek's narrower definition, instead of the term civil society organization I will use the term civil society association.
(16) In the second part of the 1990s the Roman Catholic Church defined its relationship with the State of Croatia through four international contracts that ware signed between Croatia and the Holly Seat. These were contracts on legal matters, on cooperation in the area of upbringing and culture, on the curing of souls of Catholic believers in the Croatian army and the police, and on economic matters (Ugovori izmeðu Svete Stolice i Republike Hrvatske, 2001).
(17) The Faith and Morals in Croatia research project was coordinated by the Catholic and Theological Faculty in Zagreb. It was conducted in various locations across Croatia and it interrogated 1245 individuals from the general public (Valkovic, M. 1998).
(18) The Third European Research of Values - EVS 1999 in Croatia was coordinated by the Catholic and Theological Faculty in Zagreb. The study was conducted based on a sample of 1003 individuals in 63 locations in Croatia (Baloban, J. 2000b).
Early research on Civil Society in Croatia
Definitions of Civil Society in Croatian Scientific Discourse
Contemporary Croatian Research on Civil Society
Civil Society and Religion
Civil Society and Culture
Civil Society and the Media
2.3. Media and cultural aspects of civil society
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