The Politics of Forward and Backward Infiltration: Towards a Dynamic Theory of Civil Society
Sociological Theory, Forthcoming
54 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 9, 2018
This article develops a conceptual framework to theorize the processes of mutual penetration between civil society, the state, and the economy, where incumbents and challengers continuously formulate new strategies against each other. We criticize the prevailing Weberian and Tocquevillian concepts of civil society, and then, drawing on research in social movements and comparative political economy, propose a new framework: the politics of forward and backward infiltration. Under each form of infiltration, we delineate three sub-modes: the politics of influence, the politics of substitution, and the politics of occupation, which correspond to strategies for discursive influence, functional replacement, and institutional take-over, respectively. We challenge the exclusive focus on ‘the politics of influence’ as inadequate for analyzing these processes, while highlighting the other two modes as necessary additions. Finally, we elucidate the implications of our theory of forward and backward infiltration for the study of civil society and participatory democracy more generally.
Keywords: civil society; social theory; participatory democracy; political economy
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