Development, Decentralization and Democracy: Exploring Social Capital and Politicization in the Bengal Region
This book explores the controversy in political science over the civil society/social capital paradigm, which in its main argument claims that ‘the more social capital a society possesses, the better will a democratic government work’ (Putnam 1993).
Robert Thorlind studied Development Politics at Uppsala University in Sweden. He has stayed in Bangladesh and India on numerous occasions since 1995. In 1998-2000, he worked with The Swallows (a Swedish NGO) in Dhaka. He has also been working with the Swedish Secretariat of International Trade Union Development Cooperation (LO-TCO), and is at present holding a position with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
The first part of the book explores the critical debate on civil society and social capital from the present structural and post-marxist perspectives. Thereafter, the performance of decentralized governments in West Bengal and Bangladesh is examined, to find out whether any variation in institutional and/or democratic performance, could be explained by higher levels of social capital and a stronger civil society, or if these variations rather follows from differences in the politicization of civil society. This second part of the book is based on studies of a few gram panchayats in West Bengal, and the socio-economic effects following from CPI(M)’s choice of political mobilization strategies and local actions. In Bangladesh, Gonoshahajjo Sangstha (GSS), a quite radical NGO and its activities for social mobilization and electoral participation in local level union parishads have been used as comparison. The last section of the book is an attempt by the author to take the notion of civil society and social capital a step further by testing the synergistic model of politicization.