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POLICIES TO FIGHT URBAN POVERTY - page 26 / 30

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attempt to transpose a model deriving from a specific experience (as often happens from the West to the South or the East).

One general observation can be made, however. The progress of capitalism and of State organization in Europe have led to the gradual disappearance of most community organizations and, more recently, of those rooted in working class culture. Mass unemployment and a “new poverty” have reappeared, affecting the poorer strata of the population, who now find themselves deprived of any means of integration and are in situations close to “disaffiliation”, to use Robert Castel’s celebrated term. The family and community support structures typical of working class neighbourhoods have weakened and the jobless are dependent on the State and deprived of organizational backup. In these circumstances a demand for less State and more “civil society” seems legitimate and understandable17. This type of situation is less pronounced in Third World cities where, generally speaking, community structures are relatively strong. Neighbourhood organizations therefore need to be recognized as valid actors in the political system and as a demand for responsibility on the part of the governed. In this context, State and civil society seem to be involved in a process of simultaneous development rather than of contradiction. The issue is not to strengthen “State or civil society” but “State and civil society”.

In such a context, each group of actors must find its own answers to questions about the relative weight of the State or the NGO, for example. In other words, it is important to regard the Framework of Action as a relational framework motivated by a spirit of communication. Actors motivated by such a spirit should be able to find their own answers to questions of this type which are not in any way “technical” or “scientific”. The answers will be political and will emerge from the resolution of the conflicts inherent in poverty alleviation.

For this reason, policies must dovetail into a strategy to fight poverty and a strategy to build democratic culture. The two are indissociable. If policies to fight poverty are not to reproduce a framework of dependence they must have a dual objective: improvement of the quality of life and promotion of the exercise of citizenship. Poverty will not be eradicated without the construction of legitimate, democratic government. In the last resort, the existence of poverty, whatever form it takes, is symptomatic of corruption of the democratic order of societies, when it is not the direct effect of an absence of democracy itself.

17 I should like to thank Fréderique Le Goff (CEMS/EHESS) for her contribution to the debate about community organizations in Europe and North America.

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