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   Course Title    The Role of Civil Society in the Political Decision-Making Process
Lecturer    Natalia Yarkova
Institution    Kyrgyz-Russian University
Country    Kyrgyzstan

AIM OF THE COURSE:  This course is aimed to give the students an understanding of the civil society’s role in the political decision-making process; development of civil society in Post-Communist countries; the forms of possible influence upon governmental policy and decisions; the elements of civil society and their functions.     


Course Objectives: Upon the completion of the course, students should be able to:

-                     understand the concept of civil society;

-                     distinguish the elements of civil society and their functions;

-                     have an understanding of the political decision-making process and its stages;

-                     distinguish the possible forms of involvement of different civil society elements at each stage of the political decision-making process;

-                     develop a plan of actions of civil society involvement in the political decision-making process.


Key Terminology of the Course: Citizenship; Civil Rights; Civil Society; Civil Liberties; Decision-Making Process; Individualism; Politics; Political Decision-Making Process; Social Democracy; Social Movement; Social Policy.


ROLE OF THE COURSE IN THE OVERALL DEGREE CURRICULUM: In the syllabi of courses offered to Law students, no special attention is given to civil society as it is, and its functions in the political decision-making process.  The current course would be specifically useful for students who wish to be able to assess social policies and approaches of transitional states and distinguish the role of civil society in providing effective support for different groups of society.  


Prerequisites: In order to take the course, the students are expected to have completed either the Constitutional Law or Introduction to Political Science course. 



Assessment methods: 

-                     Students are expected to read the required material, review local and international legal provisions for each discussed topic of each week and actively participate in discussions. 

-                     There will be 3 short tests – quizzes assessing the students’ knowledge of the reading material during the semester of which students will be notified beforehand. 

-                     At the end of the course the final assessment will be made.  The assessment will be based on practical tasks offered in part III of the course and an oral exam.


Assessment criteria:

Attendance, participation                20 points      10 %

Three Quizzes                                  80 points      40 %

Fulfillment of practical tasks           60 points      30 %

Oral exam                                         40 points      20 %

Total possible points                       200 points    100 %


Grades will be allocated as follows:


170 <                         A

150-169                     B

130-149                     C

110-129                     D

< 110                         F



Part I:


1ST WEEK:  Introduction to the Course. Individualism and Civil Society from the Liberal and Conservative Perspectives. The conservative concept of citizenship and citizen’s obligations will be studied as opposed to the liberal concept of individualism.    The differences of the citizen’s and individual rights will be noted. The importance of civil society in modern democratic states will be examined.    


Required Readings:

From eighteenth-century ideal to twenty first-century reality. Civil Society.  Challenging Western Models, edited by Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, European Association of Social Anthropologies, 1996  page 3-7;


2ND WEEK: Social Democracy and Its Future.  In continuation of the first topic, the theory of social democracy and social democratic movements will be discussed using historical examples, and its possible development in the future.


Required Reading: 

Social Democracy or Liberalism in the New Millennium?  by Edward Broadbent. The Future of Social Democracy, edited by Peter Russel, University of Toronto Press, 1999. page 73-93


Recommended Reading: 

Limits of the Welfare State. Capitalism and the Welfare State Dilemmas of Social Benevolence, by Neil Gilbert; Yale University Press 1983.  Page 139-164


3RD WEEK: Development of Civil Society in Post-Communist Countries.  The way of life “communism-framed” civil society of the Soviet era and development of the civil society after the break-up of the Soviet Union will be studied on the basis of historical examples.  The reasons why development of free civil society has been considered alien to the policy of the Communist Party and why now civil society sometimes is considered “amorphous”.


Required Reading: 

Civil society in Eastern Europe. Civil Society.  Challenging Western Models, edited by Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, European Association of Social Anthropology, 1996 page 7-10


Recommended Reading:  Authoritarian Communism, Ethical Civil Society, and Ambivalent Political Society: Poland; Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation by Juan J.Linz & Alfred Stepan, The John Hopkins University Press, 1996 page: 255-293


4TH WEEK: International and Constitutional Provisions as the Legal Base for Public Participation. The basic rights for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of information will be reviewed, and their meaning in the whole process of political decision-making will be discussed.


Required Reading: 

Rights in Post-Communism by Andras Sajo (see Hand-out)


Recommended reading:  A Man as social-legal value by Petrukshin, “State and Law” Magazine, # 10, 1999 page: 83-91 


5TH WEEK:  Public Opinion.  What Public Opinion is and the ways in which Public Opinion can affect Public Policy such as: blocking action, forcing actions, defining acceptable boundaries, response to policy and response to opinion, will be studied.


Required Reading:

The influence of Public Opinion on Policy The American Democracy by Thomas E. Patterson, page 196-200, 1990 


6TH WEEK:  Direct and Indirect Democracy.  The legal nature of such institutions as: referendum; public legislative initiative; elections; assembly; demonstrations, local self-governments etc. will be studied.  These institutions will be identified either as direct participation or representative democracy.  The differences and meaning of “free mandate” and “imperative mandate” of people’s representatives will be examined. 


Required Reading:  

Voter Participation The American Democracy by Thomas E. Patterson, page 203-216, 1990


Part II


7TH WEEK: Civil Society, the Elements of Civil Society and Their Functions.  The definitions of the civil society, the elements of the civil society and their functions will be distinguished.  The normative concept of the decision-making process will be evaluated and how this concept can be transferred to the concept of political decision-making will be discussed. 


Required Reading: 

The Civil Community: Some Theoretical Speculations. Making Democracy Work.  Civic Traditions in Modern Italy by Robert D. Putnam, Princeton University Press, 1993 page 86-106;  

Decision-making.  An Integrated Approach by David Jennings and Stuart Wattam, 1998 page 1-6


8TH WEEK:  Non-governmental organizations and communities.  The status of these elements will be studied according to the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic and Russian Federation.  The possible mechanism of cooperation of the government, non-governmental structures and international organization will be developed.  How the system of pilot project works and how NGOs and communities can use it to influence state policy?  


Required Reading:

Human Rights NGOs, Local Communities and the State: Some Notes on their Role in the Process of Social Development by Natalia Yarkova.  (see hand-out)


Recommended Reading:

The Social Life of Projects: importing civil society to Albania.  By Steven Sampson and Community values and State Cooptation: Civil Society in the Sichuan Countryside by John Flower. Civil Society.  Challenging Western Models, edited by Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, European Association of Social Anthropology, 1996


9TH WEEK: Mass media.  The legal status of Mass media will be studied according to the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic and Russian Federation. Why mass media is considered the Forth Branch of Power and its role in providing social control will be discussed.


Required Reading: 

 Impact of the Media on Politics, The American Democracy by Thomas E. Patterson, page 236-237, 1990


Recommended reading: How E.Ellner got mugged on the streets of London, or: civil society, the media, and the quality of life. Page 50-64 Civil Society.  Challenging Western Models, edited by Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, European Association of Social Anthropologies, 1996


A Right to Criticize.  John Peter Zenger’s Libel Trial (1735);A More Perfect Union. (Documents in U.S. History) Paul F. Boller, Jr. University of Massachusetts, 1988


10TH WEEK: Political Parties.  One-Party, Two-Party and Multiple-Party Political Systems.  The meaning of the “healthy” political opposition will be examined and when the political party stops being a part of the civil society.  The classification of party systems as imbalanced, balanced or diffused will be discussed.   


Required Reading:

Political Parties and Government Decision-Making: Party Systems, Governments and Oppositions. by M.A. Wheaton Page 47-52 (see hand-out) 


The Civil Community: Some Theoretical Speculations.  Parties. Making Democracy Work.  Civic Traditions in Modern Italy by Robert D. Putnam, Princeton University Press, 1993 page 109;  


Recommended Reading: Two-Party System: Defining the Voters’ Choices, The American Democracy by Thomas E. Patterson, page 248-267, 1990


11TH WEEK: Religious groups.  The differences between the theocratic, clerical and secular states will be discussed.  Positive and negative sides of distributing religious ideology will be distinguished. 


Required Reading:

Civil culture and Islam in Urban Turkey. By Jenny B. White, page 143-155  Civil Society.  Challenging Western Models, edited by Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, European Association of Social Anthropology, 1996


12TH WEEK: Interest groups and the role of lobby mechanism.  Why interest groups are called pressure groups?  When a group becomes an interest group and what major strategies it uses to influence policy.  Types of interest groups.  What is lobbyism and the iron triangle?   


Required Reading: 

Interest Groups and the Demand for State Actions by Jack Hayward, page 23-39 (see hand-out)

Recommended Reading:

“Interest Groups, Lobbying, and Policymaking” by Ornstein, Norman, and Shirley Elder Washington D.C. Congressional Quarterly Press, 1978. 


13TH WEEK: The concept of “grassroots” participation and the “upward” principle.   What is “grassroots”?  How public pressure is used to influence policies.  What the “upward” principle is and how it is used to build state programs.


Required Reading:  Grass-Roots Parties. Outside Lobbying: Seeking Influence through Public Pressure. Grass-Roots Lobbying.  The American Democracy by Thomas E. Patterson, 1990 326-327; 251-552


14TH WEEK: The Future of Civil Society.  Potential forms of civil society participation within the available legal framework will be studied, which are the initiative of civil society as opposed to the discussed in the first section forms of public participation stipulated in the Constitution.  How commercial sector can be involved directly in social problem solving by using tax privileges.   


Part III


15TH WEEK: Students will be asked to review the studied material and draw an approximate scheme or other form of structural model of political-decision process and explain how at each stage civil society can influence the process. 


16TH WEEK: Students will be asked to study the materials offered by “Social Policy” by John Baldock, choose any topic they are interested in and try to assess the current governmental policy in this area in Kyrgyzstan.


17TH WEEK:  Students would have to either develop a plan of possible actions in order to influence the selected policy using the developed model of political decision-making process and possible forms of influence, or they would compose an approximate document package for registration of any civil-society based organization. 


Note:  By the end of the course a short 2-day training on Project Design will be offered to the interested students.  Representatives of local and international NGOs will be invited.   





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