Civil Society

Civil Society

Politicized Algerian civil society owes its origins to the prerevolutionary period when it absorbed much of the French notions of associational life and state-society relations. From the 1920s until the War of Independence, Algerians were allowed to participate in French professional and trade unions and other mass organizations. Through most of Algeria's independent history, civil society and mass organizations have been subordinate to the state-party apparatus and relegated to roles of recruitment and propaganda. From 1968 until 1989, all mass associations were incorporated under the direct administration of the FLN. From the party's perspective, integrating the independent organizations enabled the party to become a true "front," a unique body representing the populace, while simultaneously inhibiting the development of any independent political opposition. Subordinate to the party administration, the associations quickly became engrossed in mobilizing mass support for the party and government and less occupied with pursuing the interests of the groups they represented.

The political crisis of the late 1980s radically altered the dynamic in which the people accepted central control in return for economic security by shifting some of the initiative away from the state and toward civil society. "Associations of a political character" were legalized and allowed to organize, recruit, and demonstrate. In 1989 the legalization of political parties resulted in a large number of independent interest groups emerging as political parties, attesting to the pervasive nature of associational life in Algerian political culture despite government efforts at "depoliticization" and heavy government supervision. Party proliferation was facilitated by a loosening of government regulations. Government authorization became necessary only for those organizations having a "national character," and legalization was extended to any party that did not pose a direct threat to national sovereignty. Hundreds of independent institutions emerged in the following years.


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