A functional perspective on post-communist civil society: contentious activities and internet activism in Latvia



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Tartu Ülikool


Post-communist civil society is generally depicted to be rather weak. However, the existing academic literature is outdated and reveals conceptual issues. The incorporation of normative assumptions, focus on formal activities and establishment of universally applicable indicators has resulted in rigid operational concepts of civil society that do not sufficiently account for contentious activities and internet activism. Yet, these forms of public participation are becoming increasingly important. By adopting a functional perspective, this dissertation develops a revised operational concept of civil society that allows for assessing alternative forms of public participation in terms of their quantity and quality structure. The framework is applied to the case of Latvia, where quantitative aspects of contentious activities and internet activism as well as the quality structure of the online CSOs ManaBalss.lv and Politika.lv are investigated. The analysis yields remarkable results. Latvian civil society is not weak. The extent of both contentious activities and internet activism militate for a rather strong civil society in the country. However, the organizational infrastructure of ManaBalss.lv and Politika.lv shows that financial strains serve to illustrate huge constraints on the working capacities of the organizations and, thus, need to be addressed if civil society is to be maintained and further strengthened.