Seminar №6. The significance of civil society in the West and in the context of the post-Soviet legacy

On January 13 2018, the Discussion Club of NNRI “Knowledge Caravan” hosted a discussion “The significance of civil society in the West and in the context of the post-Soviet legacy”. Professor Mukimjon Kirgizboev presented his report. The following key points (albeit not indisputable) summarise the essence of the seminar.

– it is important to weaken the state in order to strengthen the civil society;
– however, in our conditions it is necessary not to weaken the state, but to strengthen it;
– the role and activities of NGOs must be increased;
– It is necessary to identify the role and functions of the state, which should be separated from the functions of the civil society;
– it is worth noticing that the growing numbers of foreign migrants in Europe has caused a growth of nationalistic sentiments within the civil society there;
– Western research centers apply special criteria to assess the development of civil societies. Similar criteria should be developed to assess the civil society development in our country;
– there is an abstract civil society (the meaning of it speaks for itself) but there real bearers of civil society values, which are not the same thing;
– for example, J.S Mill pointed out besides despotism of the state there can be despotism of people. The elements of the latter are inherent in the post-Soviet civil society;
– civil society exists in an authoritarian state too;
– the USSR civil society was strictly ordered and mobilized (for example the path from being Oktyabryata then member of Komsomol and then the Communist Party) and even “effective” in this sense;
– within Uzbekistan’s democratic process, many talk of an inter-party rivalry (especially during the elections) but nobody seems to think that there can be an internal party competition, as well;
– can we claim that the transition period in the state building is completed and what is the criteria for such a conclusion?
During discussion, other issues including the importance of culture, mentality and religion in the civil society development were touched upon. Differing and critical assessments were made in relation to the role and place of “mahalla” (local self-governance body) in civil society. “Mahalla” seems to occupy a peculiar intermediate position between etatization and independence. It was appropriate to recall a quote from Fareed Zakaria’s book “The Future of Freedom”: “Where [countries] succeed in liberalizing their economies and their polities, they would send a powerful signal around the world that no culture, no religion, no region, is inherently resistant to democracy”.