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The Changing Roles of Civil Society in Democratization: Evidence from South Africa (1990-2009) and South Korea (1987-2009)

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For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

According to most theorists of democratization, civil society is an important force in bringing about political change. But does the advent of a democratic regime also affect the role of civil society during the consolidation of democracy? If so, what are the most relevant transformations? In order to address such research questions, this article analyses the case of South Africa and South Korea with a specific focus on how civil society has reshaped itself during the phase of democratic consolidation. A particular emphasis is put on the changing relationship with the new democratic governments since the early 1990s until now. The comparative analysis reveals common trends (e.g. risks of cooptation, changing forms of mobilization and new socio-political strategies), while it also singles out the most significant differences (e.g. the constitution of a strong middle-class civil society in South Korea vis-à-vis the crisis and resurgence of civic activism across local communities in South Africa) against the backdrop of two rather different socioeconomic contexts.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa 0002 Pretoria, South Africa, Email:; 2: di Politica, Istituzioni, Storia, Università degli Studi di Bologna Strada Maggiore, 45, 40125 Bologna, Italy, Email:


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