Date of Graduation

Winter 12-14-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies


International Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Anne Bartlett



The strength and dominance of political society, rather than the weaknesses of civil society, is arguably one of the primary reasons for massive civil uprising in Egypt led by independent, unaffiliated members of society. In many cases it appears that civil society was behind the Egyptian Revolution, although is this the case? Did the Revolution happen in spite of civil society? Just as the state can be a roadblock to development and democratization, civil society may also be detrimental to society’s growth. In this thesis, the development and civil society community is analyzed to discover the functions of CSOs as well as their own opinions on civil society in the hope of gaining a more precise and practical understanding of civil society’s role throughout Egypt. This thesis considers the major forces of civil society, both externally and internally, to include: local NGOs, international NGOs, USAID, development contractors, transnational organizations, and youth members of the resistance movement known throughout this research as “activists.”

Development agencies and foreign governments fund civil society in order to promote democratization and empower actors outside of the state. However there is a lack of understanding of what civil society is in the developing context rather than how it is understood in Western academia and policy. In the developing context civil society is often not simply a grassroots sector, as is often suggested, and rather an intricate network of transnational organizations funded by foreign governments or WB and IMF, while local organizations or NGOs are highly regulated by national government. Essentially these formal civil society organizations are unable to challenge state dominance due to the fact that they either work closely with them or are working or the goals of Western global structures. What the investigative research found is that there is a dynamic, grassroots, and voluntary group of unaffiliated members of society although they’re not considered to be civil society by national or foreign governments, and therefore do not receive funding or assistance like formal civil society. This research and thesis is vital to the understanding of what civil society is in Egypt and the re-conceptualization of civil society in the developing world.