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    ‘State Bureaucrats’ and ‘Those NGO People’: Promoting the idea of civil society, hindering the state

    Drazkiewicz-Grodzicka, Elzbieta (2016) ‘State Bureaucrats’ and ‘Those NGO People’: Promoting the idea of civil society, hindering the state. Critique of Anthropology, 36 (4). pp. 341-362. ISSN 0308-275X

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    One of the characteristics of Polish foreign aid is its focus on the ‘transition experience’ and civil society. This specific celebration of the ‘Polish success story’ contrasts sharply with public debates that frequently criticise the weaknesses of Polish civil society and the difficulties in state – non-state relations. The Polish Aid apparatus itself is not immune to these problems, often exhibiting antagonistic relations between NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By looking at the relations linking these stakeholders this text aims to analyse relations between the ‘state’ and ‘civil society’ in Poland. As the text demonstrates, complicated contemporary relations between NGOs and the State are first the outcome of the country’s troubled history of civil society, and an inheritance of the Solidarity movement when the concept of civil society was built on the idea of opposition to the state. Second, the anti-state attitude characterising contemporary organisations was also fostered by foreign institutions, which supported the Solidarity movement in its efforts to overturn the socialist regime in Poland, and later in the 1990s, became the strongest proponents of civil society and NGOs. Finally, these preexisting historical conditions for the strong polarisation of NGOs and state institutions are now additionally reinforced by the ‘professionalization’ and ‘institutionalisation’ of NGOs. However, the uncritical promotion of ‘Western standards’ exhibited in the ideals of transparency and audit culture, rather than generating positive change only antagonises NGOs and state institutions. The ultimate effect of this process is that NGOs become more and more obsessed with bureaucratic modes of operating, and start to resemble state institutions. Effectively, NGOs risk losing their identity which is so strongly built on the non-governmental aspect of their work. Effectively, the perpetuation of the state/non-State opposition becomes a strategy which allows this separate identity to be maintained and NGOs status to remain unchallenged.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Civil society; NGO; bureaucracy; state; administration; democracy; Poland;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Anthropology
    Item ID: 11169
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: IR Theres
    Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2019 10:41
    Journal or Publication Title: Critique of Anthropology
    Publisher: SAGE Publications
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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