“Today & Tomorrow. Azerbaijan in Focus”.-2007.-¹2.-P.48-53


The Camparative analyses of understanding of a sivil society idea in Europe and Azerbaijan


Dilara Muslim-zade


Prospects and problems of the idea of a civil society in Azerbaijan cause a spe­cial interest in the Azerbaijan political philosophy and among publicists. Prospects of the idea of a civil society are connected with presence and prospects of the con­sciousness differentiating these constructs. Ignoring of these questions assumes that only sole creation of political and economic institutions is capable to change conscious­ness of a commonality, irrespective of its values and priorities, as though recognizing that national consciousness is sluggish. Thus, such a position brings to that in pub­lic consciousness is formulated an attitude to public consciousness as to a monolithic phenomenon, which is static and passive. That is why it is necessary to understand consciousness of the nation as a configura­tion or mutual relations of various types of consciousness, to try to comprehend ways of transformation of the idea of a civil socie­ty in "mainstream" consciousness of, at least, one layer of the society. The analysis of actions and consciousness of political elite in politics and economy testifies that they are inconsistent, but it realizes its own economic interest and is not capable to radi­cally hinder the differentiation of interests and consciousnesses. In our opinion, the comprehension of the importance of this differentiation in the philosophical reflec­tion does give a push to the development of ideas of a civil society and searches of an adequate legal and political-economic model for the social development. But the formulation of such approach becomes pos­sible only with comprehending how in the procedural sense of the word in the western philosophy there was formed an idea about the importance of the differentiation of interests and consciousness, and the necessi­ty of a search of ways for their subsequent nonviolent (within the framework of morals and law) consolidation.

The analysis of the formation of the idea of a civil society brings to a conclusion, that the civil society begins with differenti­ation of the state and public life, distinction of the common and private interest, differ­entiation of law, religion, morality and individual morals. Problems of the differ­entiation of public, state and private life actualize problems of necessary (or suffi­cient) consolidations on the part of the state, not canceling public, corporate, indi­vidual freedoms and variants of public consolidation. Actually, the question for the Azerbaijani consciousness now stands so: whether the idea of a civil society is possible without a special "sacred" attitude of authority and citizens to a private prop­erty that is to an individual freedom and choice. In Azerbaijan a political and eco­nomic differentiation is taking place, pri­vate interests are (very slowly) formed and removed beyond the framework of shadow economy. And though above mentioned values are not recognized by public, corpo­rate and individual consciousness so far, yet tendencies have come to light, and they are directed to the further differentiation. The sociological survey we have carried out among the townspeople, the middle class, oppositional political forces, man­agers, scientists, students testify that the consciousness of these layers is possible to designate as proto-civil consciousness to which these ideas are close, but they col­lide inside themselves by the conflict of private interests and concepts (myths) of public consciousness.

The civil society taken as a philosophi­cal, political-economic and moral concept is the answer to challenges of the very con­sciousness to itself, its aspiration to cooper­ation, instead of confrontations. Its aspira­tion to cooperation also causes reconsidera­tion of many absolute concepts of type: truth, morals, justice, due model of the state, fair authority and the price as rela­tive, contractual, accepted by society through a consensus.

There is an aspiration to this in Azerbaijan, but the complexity is that proto-civil consciousness perceives truth, the morals and justice as absolute concepts, that is why there can not be formed a con­sensus between various comprehensions. To tell the truth, the idea of a civil society is transmitted here from the outside, but the process of creation of institutes and val­ues has only started, though public con­sciousness as a whole does not perceive absence of values and trust to institutes of a civil society as a challenge so far. Here the processes can be considered in a posi­tive - negative context in relation to the given idea. Among the factors promoting perception and development of this idea, we shall note the following: D) transmission on the part of the external international environment (global economic processes, political-strategic conditions and relations, "spirit of time"; b) establishment of the form of the democratic state on the basis of idea of division of powers and develop­ment nation-forming factors, feelings of national identity; c) economic differentia­tion and comprehension of its inevitability, search of legal and moral bases of vital ability in these conditions, as a degree of "modernizing" social consciousness; d) for a while, the tendency on the development of social-class structure of the society and understanding of conflict character of inter-group relations; e) development of ele­ments of civil social-cultural factors; f) development of such political factors as interaction of parties of social-political movements and groups of interests, includ­ing organized in accordance with new political institutions, the consent of politi­cal subjects with proto-democratic proce­dures, political ethics; g) individual politi-cal-psychological factors (knowledge, pro­fessional preparedness of city layers of the population, awareness, concrete actions and strong-willed decisions of key political authors). It is possible to attribute the fol­lowing to negative: D) both on popular and scientific levels, insufficient knowledge about the history of the development of the idea of a civil society in Europe, prevalence of vulgar Marxism, frequently, critical con­ceptions about a civil society among basic layers of the population and, first of all, indifference of the education system to basic postulates of the idea of a civil socie­ty; b) preservation of sizes of shadow econ­omy, which has led to real relations to remain a hinder to disclosing and verbal­ization of private and corporate interests; c) ideological shade of political and economic relations strengthens or recreates concep­tions about the state as a device protecting exclusively integrated interests, and hin­ders its perception as a tool of consolida­tion of various interests; d) an alternative gains a foothold in consciousness of politi­cal public: either the common (national) interests, or private interests; e) the most widespread type of consciousness is still the patriarchal, its morals not supervising the sphere of political-economic relations and being indifferent to the legal control over them.

The idea of a civil society is popular in the literature, which is distributed in Azerbaijan on political and philosophical subjects both in English, and Russian lan­guages, a lot of it is also in the Azerbaijani language. Sociological polls testify that there are certain notions about the idea of a civil, society among active layers of the population, students, scientists and politi­cally active workers in a greater degree, than teachers and businessmen. We note at once that distinctions in the level of knowl­edge about a civil society are connected not only to first-hand interests of respondents, but also with an educational level, political predilections, age (these moments are important). The analysis of data of socio­logical polls, the contents - analysis of press, legal documents, both governmental and oppositional, both in Russian, and Azerbaijani languages, scientific and set forth in understandable terms publications testify that the idea of a civil society is pop­ular (it is fixed among the basic ones in the Constitution of Azerbaijan), but knowledge is not strong and not deep. In proceedings, as a rule, the idea of a civil society is con­nected to presence of middle class, civil consciousness, but immatureness of middle class as if predetermines localness of distri­bution of the idea. Values, moral concepts, the role of consciousness and individual interests in distribution of the idea are not taken into account. Let us note especially that between freedom and equality "equali­ty" is chosen, between traditions and inno­vations the "tradition" is chosen, between individual and common interests the "com­mon" are chosen and kept in the role of basic value categories. Naturally, all moments in economy, politics and morals, which lead to differentiation, or prove the necessity of comprehension of the impor­tance of differentiation, are perceived fre­quently negatively, even in the proceed­ings. In publications of the Azerbaijani sci­entists, the tonality of the idea of a civil society is determined by the reference to ideas of Aristotle, Hegel, K. Marx, K. Popper, the reference to liberal versions of the idea is connected with the analysis of early liberalism of J. Lock, modern neo-liberalism (F.Fon Hayek , L.Fon Misses), ideas of the discourse, understanding sociology and cognitive psychology are almost not perceived. Such an ideological base results in the perception of the public conscious­ness as a passive phenomenon, the public purposes as an absolute reality, and the state as the unique and active beginning, capable to give intension to consciousness, actualizing and consolidating it. It is neces­sary to emphasize, that the Muslim philos­ophy has apprehended Aristotle and Plato as the author of "State", but it did not know his work "Laws", Marxism was quite toler­ant to Aristotle, Hegel, but it has not led to understanding of the sense and the impor­tance of the idea of a civil society. In our opinion, an ideological - theoretical com­prehension of the idea is supposed under­standing and knowing, that the idea of a civil society was spread in Europe through discussion between ethatist and liberal ver­sions of a civil society, at that, for the ethatist direction of concept of a civil socie­ty, ethics of individualism were not con­ceptual ideas. For example, for Thomas Hobbes, Hegel and K. Marx it was impor­tant to enter the idea of a civil society in the concept of the state, and I. Kant consid­ers the state through a prism of individual moral and economic consciousness, free­dom and the concept of civil morals, civil development. Such a conceptual reorienta­tion of the approach allows apprehending the state, if the major, but not the unique mechanism of consolidation of private interests, besides results in a formulation of the idea of legal regulation of the very authority. The legal state as an invariant of such authority in general minimizes inte­grating functions of the state (the idea of the minimal government in designs of modern neo-liberalism). The understand­ing of sense and value of this discussion does help to determine what we name an "ideal type" of a civil society, a certain nucleus of an idea about primacy of the individual and public vital activity, feeling the need for freedom, property and self-regulation. The concept of an "ideal type" of a civil society should be transmitted in the society through educational programs.

What is the civil society as an "ideal type"? This question either does not inter­est the Azerbaijani intellectuals, or they answer it so: private life of citizens, private property of citizens, while a legal state, civil consciousness, political pluralism sounds less often. A legal state is perceived as a democratic state, the authority elected as a result of elections, received the majori­ty of voices, a state, which has adopted the Constitution, etc. The problem of legitima­cy, the attitude of the majority to the minority is ignored. The role of the minori­ty is reduced to the necessity of representa­tion, while their interests and conscious­ness are not realized or comprehended, as is a part of the common interests of the nation. At that, it is ignored that the major­ity of voices and elections are necessary for democracy, these are not enough, the pres­ence of the Constitution (laws) is necessary for a legal state, but it is not enough. The essence of a civil society is open in that it is not a form, not institutions, though nobody will deny their importance, but a certain value consciousness of the individual and the society, capable to apprehend other's distinctions and freedom, to understand the significance of a consensus of interests and its comprehension being in the basis of common interests and purposes. The civil society as an idea begins not from XVIII century, it does not begin with the devel­opment of bourgeoisie as a class, but in a certain sense of the word it becomes a result (conditionally) of discontinuously continuous development of the thought, plural consciousness, and discussions of ideas. It is the discussions that have led to understanding that in the basis of the social development there is a conflict of interests and its contractual resolution by conflicting sides. The symbolical words which define a civil society as an "ideal type" are: recogni-tion of inevitability of differentiation of interests for social development, differenti­ation of morals and law, science and reli­gion, division of natural and civil morals, customs, science and politics, bifurcation of individual and public (state) morals. Let's notice, that as far back as J. Lock used the concept a civil society and the state as interchangeable. Processes of differentia­tion actualize questions of consensus and consolidation, the role of an imperious principle (the sovereign national state) in the consolidation and, simultaneously, questions of protection of the society and the individual from an excessive consolida­tion. This actualization, search of answers to challenges of differentiation result in division of economic and political spheres, division of powers, smashing of political elite, formation of political ethics, ethics of a civil society and legalization of an idea "nation - state", the idea, which Samuel Huntigton names "healthy nationalism", and we shall name it "positive national­ism". In modern western philosophy and political philosophy these questions make "field" of a civil society. The analysis of works of the Azerbaijani intellectuals testi­fies to recognition with clauses of the role of economic stratification in the develop­ment of the state, but the understanding of the role of the differentiated consciousness, or the consciousness, which have gemmat­ed from communality, has not been revealed. It is necessary to recreate a posi­tive image of such a consciousness as (embryo) of a civil society, political ethics, as a derivative mechanism of this con­sciousness. Such an embryonic conscious­ness of a civil society is the recognition of variety and multi-component conscious­ness and interests of communality. In Europe only during the Modern Period, there is an understanding being formed that the legal state, ethics of a civil society and political ethics appear norms and val­ues association regulating mutual relations of citizens and those who are involved in the sphere of authority and politics as act­ing persons and forces. From now on we can distinguish and use concepts of the tra­ditional political culture, which recognizes a sacred character of authority, accepts plu­rality and variety as weakness, regulating rights of the subject and rights of the authority by the traditional norms recog­nized absolute, and civil, multi-compound political culture - culture of "set - of - sets", culture of dialogue (G.Almond). The tradi­tional political culture and consciousness do not disappear completely, but a civil, dialogic type of culture dominates in a civil society. The recognition of variety is a seri­ous step to the domination of a civil type of culture. The analysis of works of the Azerbaijani experts on a civil society testi­fies that they do not put the differentiation in a basis of the theory of a civil society. The point of view, closer to them, is that the state recognizes some freedoms for citi­zens, as a rule, in economic and political sphere, and they define a civil society as limited freedom in the market and in polit­ical sphere, recognized by the state. They understand the market as a mechanism of economic development, instead of a phe­nomenon, understanding of its essence radically changing all life of individuals. In our opinion, such an understanding in turn hinders the modern philosophical and political idea of Azerbaijan to examine neo-liberalism. In the majority of works it is presented primitively enough, as a set of the ideas combining economic freedom of the individual and need for the state to intervene in economy to support outsiders with the help of social programs or financ­ing of those spheres, which cannot be financed by separate sponsors. For exam­ple, it is necessary to admit that the sense of the polemic of neo-liberalism and the theory of a discourse (Y. Habermas) is that directives about general (morals and law)\ define conditions of vital activity of people. Politics, economy and even public morals are estimated not from the position of prof­it, but from conformity to conceptions about the general. The analysis of works of the Azerbaijani researchers allows drawing the following conclusions: the role of politi­cal differentiation in the society is exagger­ated, the economic differentiation is under­estimated, and directives about the general on the whole contradict differentiation. The society is examined in a context of realiza­tion of the purposes perceived, as set ini­tially. Therefore the recognition of any dif­ferentiation is frequently perceived as a concession to external circumstances. The morals and ethics are examined as spheres of due, original national spirit, which is ambivalent to politics and economy. Therefore an idea of protection and self-preservation of national spirit is stated. Freedom is unambiguously alternative to morals and ethics; it is not a part of ethics and morals, which essence is in an indivisi­ble unity. Ideally, it is supposed, that both politics and economy should aspire to such unity. For example, scientists frequently enough use a phrase of this type: a uniform scientific politics, that is, a division into a uniform scientific and unscientific politics takes place, this means, that in the long term all politics will become scientific, uni­form. But the sense of political differentia­tion is not in revealing a uniform scientific politics, but in a competitive representation of various (first of all economic) interests. The thesis about priority of the stable development is used frequently, but the question on who will judge what leads to stability and what destroys it, is left with­out an answer on the part of the researchers. In this context, serious omis-sion is that the Soviet totalitarianism is per­ceived in the sense of an imperial totalitari­anism, a dictatorship of the imperial center, that is why it is not perceived as a danger to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani patriarchal consciousness is not perceived as threats and challenges to a civil society, democrat­ic and market institutions. It is necessary to emphasize that similar views, concepts and approaches are duplicated by mass media and make bases of dominating conscious­ness. There are questions left without any answer, what is the configuration of types of consciousness in Azerbaijan, what is proto-civil consciousness, and what are its prospects, the reasons of the domination of patriarchal consciousness, problems of the formation of political ethics. When there is no answer to these questions, the under­standing of a society as one big family remains prevailing.



1. "Vital problems of ethics and aesthetics" (collection of works). Baku, "Agridaq", 2000.

2.  Hasanov R.M. "Formation of a civil soci­ety under transformation." Baku, "Kitab Alemi", 2003.

3.  Mamed-zade I.R. Introduction to ethics. Baku, "Muallim", 2004.

4.  Mamed-zade I.R. A civil society and national ideology: philosophy of political process in Azerbaijan. Baku, 1995.

5.  Political ethics and some transitional problems (collection of works), Baku, "Muallim", 1998.

         6. Results of sociological interrogation are published in the collection of works indicat­ed above " Political ethics and some transi­tional problems"