As far as the functioning of civil society institutions is concerned, the aspect of state policies and legislation vis-à-vis the NGO sector should be taken into account. Moreover, they should be obliged to submit yearly reports on their activities and finances to the Ministry of Social Development. NGOs may not engage in any new type of activity without the Ministry’s consent. Officials of this Ministry should pay surprise visits to the premises of NGOs that are under its jurisdiction. Transgressions of these regulations and laws by NGOs may result in the arrest and imprisonment of NGO members as well as in the dissolution of the NGO in question. Cultural and welfare associations are thus prevented from playing a lively role in opposition and protest in the public sphere.
It is obvious that such a regime of state monitoring and supervision does not create a climate conducive to openly mobilizing the poor to engage in political action. Whether, if this legislative and regulative regime did not exist, NGOs would engage in such activities is hard to tell. Due to a lack, the poor are unable to contribute to the social networks that form the basis of NGOs, and the movement as a whole suggests that this is unlikely. On the other hand, if organizing struggles or lobbying for the sake of the rights of the poor in the name of the social good message would contribute to the influence in society and their leverage vis-à-vis the state, one might easily ask why they wouldn’t do so. Belonging to the middle class is, in itself, not an obstacle to mobilizing and organizing the lower classes.
Historically speaking, many social good movements mobilizing the lower classes have been led by figures from middle-class backgrounds. There are even some instances of movements in other Middle countries that have engaged in such struggles. The same movement organized professional as well as residential groups in that area to press the government to improve social services. However, repressive forces organized protests, resulting in death for some protestors, ensuring this movement soon quit its activities. Another example of a social movement relying on lower and middle-class support. Likewise, NGOs cannot engage in the overt political mobilization of the poor due to state repression. If NGOs want to mobilize and politically influence the poor, for instance during election time, they must do this in ways concealed from public view, in order to escape the repressive measures by security services.
Nevertheless, the fact that these NGOs are barred from expressing a political discourse in the public sphere clearly dis-empowers them. Here we see the observation of a “modernization of civil society” through a spontaneous process of differentiation between various institutions of a political, social, cultural, and economic nature simply does not apply. In the case of Middle countries, it is the state which imposes differentiation on the institutions of civil society, not for the sake of the latter’s “authentic modernity” but for that of state dominance and control. In response, the educated members of this civil society may try to express their criticism of, and grievances toward, state policies and the political and socio-economic establishment of their country through all kinds of civil society institutions, including welfare NGOs. At least, that is what the state is wary of and what it wishes to prevent.
Ultimately, it seems clear that different historical trajectories of political, social, and economic development have given rise to different kinds of modernity; this also explains the above-mentioned institutional differentiation. The political environment of Middle countries is often characterized by authoritarian rule preventing political parties and other grassroots movements from playing a meaningful oppositional role and imposing serious limitations on press freedom and freedom of expression. It is also characterized by many forms of economic, political, and cultural dependency and/or marginality of those countries vis-à-vis powers. This environment generates many socio-economic and political frustrations. These frustrations, which at present are often expressed through the language of politics, seek an outlet through any possible means, including institutions like NGOs. In this sense, they have the tendency to lead to a spontaneous bottom-up process of de-differentiation, in the form of a strong politicization of all realms of (civil) society, including religious homes, professional associations, and welfare NGOs, which have the potential of turning into vehicles of political opposition. The state, in turn, anticipates and checks such trends by its policies of repressive differentiation and the de-politicization of civil institutions imposed from above. So far, Middle states seem to have been successful in this policy. This is certainly the case with the repression of political expressions by welfare NGOs, who remain fearful of invoking the wrath of the state authorities. State control and repression are but one aspect of the NGOs’ relationship with the state, however.
Another important aspect is the reliance of the state on welfare NGOs – to provide services to subaltern as well as middle-class communities for social good. These services guarantee a measure of social peace and take away part of the burden of social care and development from the government. Closing down welfare NGOs would also involve costs for the government: it leaves a vacuum in social services with clearly adverse implications for the well-being of society. Not only is there the risk of sociopolitical unrest, but also of social disintegration. Orphans and other needy children, for instance, would receive no aid from the state, may drop out of school, and turn to drugs, alcohol, or crime. The state gives space to the NGOs to institutionalize part of the socio-cultural lifeworld values of their members and workers, like piety, caring, solidarity and charity, through their social welfare activities. The NGOs commit themselves to obey the law and observing the official regulations imposed by the state, which implies abstaining from (publicly visible forms of ) political activity.
SOCIAL GOOD MESSAGE
Sparrows by morning, live in peaceful nests! Design shouldn’t dominate things, shouldn’t dominate people. It should help people. Don’t spend your time solving your favorite problems, solve problems that need to be solved, generically. A home is a place where you live, and society is a place where your story begins. Honesty shares honesty, as it is honesty’s nature. Stay always in Ablution and get back to the trust you have been, with.