The essays are organized in two sections. The first deals with the conceptual and theoretical debate on the relation between civil society and governance. The second substantiates the debate with empirical insights drawn from the study of assertions taking place in the space of civil society.
The contributors have provided an Indian perspective to the discussion. The crisis of governance in India and the role that civil society can play in improving the situation has been examined in detail. The state--civil society relationship of confrontation has been recast as one of cooperative engagement and as an act of balance between the state, the market and the civil society. The book argues for critical significance of citizen vigilance and assertion in checking the corrupt and arbitrary exercise of state power.
Case studies on the Save Chilika Movement, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha, dalit assertion in Sregarhi, the pavement dwellers in Mumbai and the Kol tribal movement have been examined to look into the issue of governance from the point of view of the marginalized people. These social movements are questioning both the state-led and market-determined governance.
The assertions in civil society vis-à-vis the state therefore, reflect the need for incorporating the agenda of people in the scheme of governance. Thus, collective action can provide a broader understanding of governance in which people participate in deciding what is good for them and governance does not remain the sole responsibility of the state.
The book argues that a corrupt and exploitative state cannot be let off the hook. It needs to be reformed and brought back to perform its task of responsible governance. It is here that civil society has to play a vigilant role.