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Back Door Democratization? Apolitical Associations in the Middle East
Unformatted Document Text:  25 standing in the background buzzing in the ear of the regime. As the state slowly gives the opposition more room, that buzzing will become impossible to ignore. Conclusion The purpose of this paper was to test the hypothesis that in a restricted civil society environment apolitical associations can serve as a proxy to political parties and associations to help cultivate civic virtue and the values necessary for a vibrant civil society and eventually democracy to develop. To test that hypothesis I set out to answer two questions: first, in a state where freedom of association is limited can apolitical associations serve the same function that overtly political associations do in a less restrictive society? The answer to that question is both yes and no. While apolitical associations are often able to take on political agendas covertly, they are always limited by the institutional framework of the state. Apolitical associations can potentially provide their members the same social capital as political associations and some of the same tools and resources necessary to demand change, however it is up to the people to make that demand, and they must do so within the institutional framework in which they operate. Thus, while in both democracies and autocracies associations can easily strengthen democracy by acting as schools for tolerance, diversity, and rule of law, it is only in a democracy that citizens can graduate from that school and go out and practice what they’ve learned. Second, do associations, and civil society more generally, provide the same benefit to non-democracies that they do to democracies? The short answer here, is no. Associations in a democracy are successful at strengthening that democracy because of their ability to bridge cross-cutting societal cleavages, their political leverage, their

Authors: Yerkes, Sarah.
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standing in the background buzzing in the ear of the regime. As the state slowly gives the
opposition more room, that buzzing will become impossible to ignore.
Conclusion
The purpose of this paper was to test the hypothesis that in a restricted civil society
environment apolitical associations can serve as a proxy to political parties and
associations to help cultivate civic virtue and the values necessary for a vibrant civil
society and eventually democracy to develop. To test that hypothesis I set out to answer
two questions: first, in a state where freedom of association is limited can apolitical
associations serve the same function that overtly political associations do in a less
restrictive society? The answer to that question is both yes and no. While apolitical
associations are often able to take on political agendas covertly, they are always limited
by the institutional framework of the state. Apolitical associations can potentially provide
their members the same social capital as political associations and some of the same tools
and resources necessary to demand change, however it is up to the people to make that
demand, and they must do so within the institutional framework in which they operate.
Thus, while in both democracies and autocracies associations can easily strengthen
democracy by acting as schools for tolerance, diversity, and rule of law, it is only in a
democracy that citizens can graduate from that school and go out and practice what
they’ve learned.
Second, do associations, and civil society more generally, provide the same
benefit to non-democracies that they do to democracies? The short answer here, is no.
Associations in a democracy are successful at strengthening that democracy because of
their ability to bridge cross-cutting societal cleavages, their political leverage, their


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