State regulation and social capital – comparative approaches to India and Denmark.

Workshop at the Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, 7-8 December 2012

Call for abstracts

We invite abstracts (max 250 words) by 10 November.

About the workshop

An important aspect of European and American social research has underlined that the cohesion in civil society to some degree depends on various forms of social capital. According to some approaches social capital seems to be a primary factor for the integration of society, and may act independently of the state. This has led to some attempts to let civil society organizations take over from the state as important agents of social transformation, in regard to education, welfare, rural development and other areas. The developments in northern Europe, the US and Asia have, however, been very different depending on the social structures of the societies.

This workshop attempts to bring together social scientists and humanists working on different aspects of civil society in India and Denmark with the objective of developing frames that allow for comparisons of how the state regulation of civil society gives rise to different or like responses in the population and among social actors at group level. The workshop attempts to include areas of religious studies and aims at bringing the study of religion and religious bodies at level with the rest of the social sciences, hereby breaking away from former attempts to formulate a specific sociology for religion independent of rest of the social sciences.

The workshop will especially address the following:

1. The state regulation of civil society

Denmark [1], much of Europe and the US have highly formalized NGO sectors working on political issues, general or single-issues and in social work, whereas India’s NGO sectors since the end of the 1980s have been limited to work towards the so-called “weaker-sections” and to village work in rural areas.[2] These differences have given rise to the discussion to what extent India has a civil society at all. This workshop, however, will focus on how the different terms of state regulation form the frames for NGOs and more informal organizations of civil society. Another issue that will be approached is the legal frame for religious charities in India and its implications for the organization of religious bodies. (Papers on the Asutosh Varshney – Paul Brass discussion on civil society in India, regarding whether small political bodies give rise to religious conflicts and whether civil society can be meliorated by social capital are welcome as are papers addressing cases outside India).

2. Statistical approaches

On the basis of indicators of social capital developed by Robert Putnam and other social scientists, social capital in Indian states is compared with social capital in Denmark and the US. At present one important theory argues that benevolence in Denmark is correlated with a strong civil society, and indifference in the US over an extended period of time counteracts social engagement. In the case of India the social capital approach is disputed, and a narrow, well-defined approach will allow for testing theories on a medium scale. The comparison will initially be carried out on the basis of the World Value Survey which covers the Nordic Countries, the US and India.

3. Case studies of civil society organizations

Case studies of civil society organizations in India, Denmark or other nation states with a focus on how the organization/s is/are inscribed in the regulations of the state (formal as well as informal) offer opportunities to develop comparative perspectives. The cases may regard groups working for ethnical, cultural, political or religious aims and may include religious bodies like churches or mosques as well as formal NGOs or related organizations in civil society. It may be noted that the legal organization of the Indian Union on the one hand has abolished caste discrimination at individual level, while allowing caste and tribal organizations. On the other hand the Constitution of India allows for bona fide discrimination towards members of what is defined as Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. A situation that offers ample opportunities for comparison to other kinds of state regulation of ethnic and religious minorities.

[1] In Denmark this is ideally stated in In Denmark this is framed on the basis of the Charter on the interaction between the voluntary associations and the authorities (Charter for Samspillet mellem det Frivillige Danmark / Foreningsdanmark og det offentlige, 2001) followed by a large sequence of initiatives.

[2] The Planning Commission of India has, however, systematic tried to involve civil society organisations in the development of the upcoming Twelfth Five-Year Plan.

7 December, 10.00-17.00
8 December, 9.00-16.00

Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, Artillerivej 86, 2300 Copenhagen S, room 0.26

The workshop is open to all interested and free of charge. Kindly register per email to Katrine Willadsen no later that 30 November.

For further questions please contact Associate Professor Peter B. Andersen or Professor Peter Gundelach