The era of globalisation has both enhanced and challenged the power of civil society, opined G Gopakumar, Professor Emeritus, University of Kerala, while speaking at the Department of Political Science, KU Kariavattom on Thursday. He was presenting a paper on ‘Globalisation, Development and Civil Society in Kerala’ at a two-day national seminar being conducted at the department.
“For example, globalisation brought in advances in communication technology, making it easy to disseminate ideas across borders,” he said. “But at the same time, it has also created a civil society of a consumeristic character.”
Talking about the history of civil society in Kerala, he said that it started in Kerala with social reforms. “It started with the caste system,” he said, adding that holistic reforms were possible all over the state because each caste tried to bring about social change within itself.
“A recent study shows Kerala has the fourth highest NGO activism in the country,” he said, adding that the increasing presence of civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations might lead to the marginalisation of political parties in the future. “Not that political parties will fade, but their credibility may be questioned in the coming years.”
Director of Centre for Developing Studies (CDS) Pulapre Balakrishnan, who delivered the keynote address, spoke of the power of civil society organisations citing some instances where civil society activism in several parts of the world had challenged irresponsible activities of powerful transnational corporations.
“Greenpeace’s successful fight against the petroleum company Shell, UK, against abandoning Brent Spar, a North Sea oil storage and tanker loading buoy, in the deep waters is one example,” he said. “The resistance of tribals and the local people against Vedanta’s mining activities in Orissa is another.”
Rajan Gurukkal, Vice-Chancellor, M G University, inaugurated the UGC-SAP National Seminar organised by the Department of Political Science, University of Kerala. Shaji Varkey, HOD, Department of Political Science, University of Kerala, chaired the inaugural ceremony.