Date of Award
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Alan Gilbert, Ph.D.
Civil society, People's power, Revolutions, Social change, Social justice, Zimbabwe
The relationship of civil society to the state is rarely antagonistic and at most times supportive. The political regime and civil society are taken to be interdependent social structures that interact through hegemonic, supportive and socially constructed dimensions. Given this interdependency, when does civil society challenge authority or does its efforts rise to the level of a people's power revolution? When does it act to dismantle the political regime or seek to reconstruct it? This project attempts to shed light on how civil society mobilizes a people's power capable of challenging political authority through the story of its ongoing struggles to pursue social objectives in Zimbabwe in the 1990s.
Since 1980, the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) controlled the only post-colonial government Zimbabwe has known. Drawing from its revolutionary credentials it set out to finish the interrupted war for Zimbabwean Independence. This objective resonated with civil society less and less over time as groups began to see Zanu's promises as hollow and its corruption and patronage systems as the primary obstacle in accomplishing their objectives. This development is explored through a grassroots empowerment movement, the Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress, the widespread protests in 1997 catalyzed by the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions and the efforts to rebuild the constitutional order spearheaded by the National Constitutional Assembly.
The story points to at least three civil society strategies to locate power within the people and counter political power: 1) constructing political alternatives within the existing regime, 2) mass withdrawal of support for the authority of the regime and 3) reconstruction of the social contract. Nevertheless, civil society did not succeed in dismantling the political regime, hampered by the continuing capacity of the state to exert hegemonic control, remove the pillars of civil society support and exploit polarized values within civil society.
Despite the terrible destruction of social and economic fabric of the country by the political struggles of the 2000s, the ongoing development of democratic values and the diminishing importance of the interrupted revolution can provide a glimmer of hope for the future transformation of the country.
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A. Scott DuPree
Received from ProQuest
DuPree, A. Scott, "Withholding Political Authority: Civil Society and People's Power in Zimbabwe" (2012). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 800.
Political Science, International relations, African studies