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The Changing Dynamic of Cuban Civil Society

Edited by Alexander I. Gray and Antoni Kapcia

Publication Year: 2008

Does a civil society actually exist in Cuba today and if so what is its nature and role? In seeking answers to this hotly contested and highly politicized question, Alexander Gray and Antoni Kapcia have assembled an impressive and diverse group of contributors.

The essays in The Changing Dynamic of Cuban Civil Society range from general discussion of the private sector to case studies about volunteer work, religious entities, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the economic crisis in 1990, the Cuban state has experienced severe challenges, and individuals have been forced to respond in unexpected ways to ensure their economic survival. Avoiding polemics and preconceptions, this volume brings a fresh and welcome perspective to one of the most vexing issues in Cuban society today.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v

Tables and Figures

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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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Introduction. Responding to Crisis at the Grass Roots

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pp. 1-19

Most analyses of Cuba since 1990 focus on the big issues. Broadly, they tend to address the challenges to and the changes in Cuba (most notably the economic crisis, the tightened embargo, the external political pressures, the impact of the dollar, or the increasing social divisions) or the growth of a “civil society” (as necessarily in conflict with the Communist state) and dissident challenges...

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1. Setting the Stage for a Discussion of Cuban Civil Society: The Nature of Cuban “Communism” and of the Revolution’s Political Culture

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pp. 20-39

When assessing the nature of the Cuban political system since 1959, any attempt to apply notions of civil society (and certainly of the state and civil society) should be treated with caution. This is because the term “civil society” is now highly contested (Tester 1992). Although the concept has evolved, often beyond recognition, since its genesis, its focus has always essentially been European or North American. As such, it has arisen from specific historical...

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2. Civil Society: The Cuban Debate

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pp. 40-64

It is widely accepted in Cuba that the debate about civil society was one of the great debates of the 1990s. During this decade there was a boom in interest in civil society and an explosion in the use and study of the term within Cuban intellectual circles (Monal 1999; Acanda 1996). According to one Cuban analyst, such reflection represented the conceptual renovation of a term that was...

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3. The Rise of the Private Sector in Cuba

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pp. 65-89

It has been seventeen years since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, which led to both the loss of 80 percent of Cuba’s foreign trade and a tightening of the U.S. blockade, forcing the Cuban government to adopt an unprecedented set of economic measures known as the Special Period. At one level the Special Period involved the reinsertion of Cuba into the world economy and the adoption...

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4. Rediscovering Lo Local: The Potential and the Limits of Local Development in Havana

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pp. 90-115

By the mid-1990s, garbage pickup in Pogolotti, a neighborhood in Havana’s municipality of Marianao, had become very unreliable. At first, families hung their small plastic bags from trees and posts, but in time sidewalks, streets, and empty lots became dumping grounds for household wastes. The People’s Council in Pogolotti collaborated with the Metropolitan Park of Havana, a major...

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5. Solidarity Organizations and Friendship Groups: Internationalist Volunteer Work Brigades and People-to-People Ties

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pp. 116-139

Many would agree that there is a strong solidarity movement in Canada. The astonishingly large number of organizations that advocate some kind of support for an equally large number of causes or interests is just one indicator of the movement. But even among those who are part of that movement there is little agreement on what solidarity is, on solidarity for what or for whom...

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6. “A Space within the Revolution”: Religious Cubans and the Secular State

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pp. 140-159

The international isolation and internal economic difficulties that followed the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe forced a rethinking of the Cuban revolutionary project. One of the changes was the removal of religious intolerance. It is now acknowledged that the adoption of scientific atheism as the national religion was a mistake of an earlier period.1 The Communist Party...

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7. The Genesis of NGO Participation in Contemporary Cuba: Perceptions from the Field, as Reported by Local and Foreign NGO Representatives

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pp. 160-182

There is no clear line in Cuba between civil society and the state. However, with the economic strife resulting from the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the simultaneous tightening of the U.S. economic embargo, international donor agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) entered Cuba, altering the makeup of civil society. These interventions have brought about a...

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pp. 183-188

The aim of this book has been to fill a perceived gap in our knowledge about Cuba’s NGO community and its role in, and relationship with, civil society in Cuba. It therefore has focused on the effects on that civil society of the Cuban state’s necessary adaptation to dramatic change, largely approaching the subject by assessing aspects of the relationship between NGOs and religious...


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pp. 189-190

About the Contributors

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pp. 191-192


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pp. 193-202

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045962
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813031927
Print-ISBN-10: 0813031923

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 14 tables, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2008