Trust and civil society: contemporary activism in urban India
Paper short abstract:
"Civil society" consisting of the urban middle-class is a new social phenomenon in India. Trust in politicians has been challenged by civil society activists. This paper examines how ideas and forms circulate between the "political" and "civil" societies and how they generate social reality.
Paper long abstract:
Since the 1990s, India has experienced radical changes due to economic liberalization and political decentralization; correspondingly, new kinds of social spaces, which cut across communities—caste, religion, language, etc.—have emerged. "Civil society" consisting of the urban middle-class is one such social space. This paper illustrates the characteristics of the new activism of this civil society and examines how it uses and influences the notion of trustworthiness. One of the main objectives of the new civil society movements is to "recover" the city's public spaces and "protect" them from the "encroachments" of slum dwellers and hawkers. Scholars have attributed the activists' orientation toward a "world-class" aesthetics to India's neoliberal turn and the rise of a new middle class. This explanation, however, overlooks the formation process of this new activism, missing continuities in its credible ideas and forms, differences among them, and their circulation. "Apolitical" civil society activists claiming to represent "citizens" and a "vote-bank politics" discourse have challenged trust in traditional and allegedly outmoded party-based politicians claiming to represent communities. In actual campaigns and activities, despite their explicit differentiation from "politics," civil society actors use Enlightenment ideas, forms, and methods borrowed from various realms, including the political. This paper explores how these activists develop and maintain trust in their own social efficacy. When community and political solidarity are seen as inadequate, what inspires the trust that underlies their activism? The generation of a new social reality can be seen with this quandary in civil society campaigns.
Trust in super-diversity