An uneasy pair: Islam and democratization in Senegal

This article explores the relation between Islamic brotherhoods and democratization in Senegal. It is widely thought that the development of a strong sector of voluntary associations is a sure means of democratizing society from the grassroots. However, the recent history of Senegal, where large Islamic associations have been the dominant feature of civil society for more than a century, shows that civil society can shackle as well as bolster democratic regimes. Nevertheless, recent trends in the internal evolution and modes of operation of the Senegalese Islamic brotherhoods indicate that in the coming decade they will promote rather than hinder progress towards the development of democratic institutions. The Senegalese example suggests a more nuanced approach to the commonly accepted ‘civil society model’ of African political development. Rather than standing in opposition to or acting in concert with the State, as the standard bipolar model supposes, civil society in Senegal functionally merges with the State in significant respects. The brotherhoods in particular have adopted many characteristics associated with the modern State, and power is smoothly distributed among a range of public and private actors. Bibliogr., notes, ref.

Title: An uneasy pair: Islam and democratization in Senegal
Author: Thomas, C. William
Year: 1997
Periodical: Dmocraties africaines
Volume: 3
Issue: 10
Pages: 51-60
Language: English
Geographic term: Senegal
Abstract: This article explores the relation between Islamic brotherhoods and democratization in Senegal. It is widely thought that the development of a strong sector of voluntary associations is a sure means of democratizing society from the grassroots. However, the recent history of Senegal, where large Islamic associations have been the dominant feature of civil society for more than a century, shows that civil society can shackle as well as bolster democratic regimes. Nevertheless, recent trends in the internal evolution and modes of operation of the Senegalese Islamic brotherhoods indicate that in the coming decade they will promote rather than hinder progress towards the development of democratic institutions. The Senegalese example suggests a more nuanced approach to the commonly accepted ‘civil society model’ of African political development. Rather than standing in opposition to or acting in concert with the State, as the standard bipolar model supposes, civil society in Senegal functionally merges with the State in significant respects. The brotherhoods in particular have adopted many characteristics associated with the modern State, and power is smoothly distributed among a range of public and private actors. Bibliogr., notes, ref.