Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Carrie Manning - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Cora Presley - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Kim Reimann - Committee Member


This research examines the impact of formal democracy on the construction of an effective civil society in Ghana. The theoretical and policy role of civil society has received a great deal of attention in the literature. Especially for democratization theorists, the focus has been on the democracy enhancing qualities of civil society—qualities often credited with playing key roles in democratic transitions in Africa. However, the question of what happens to civil society after a democratic transition has not received much attention in the literature. Using a historical institutionalist approach, the study examines how democratic institutions and institutional arrangements affect the development of civil society. After Ghana’s return to formal democracy in 1992, democratic openings, though not immediately transformative, created an expansion in civil liberties and political rights necessary for the emergence of civil society. Paradoxically, state institutions remained weak and it was such weakness—not the strength, as some of the literature suggests, that allowed civil society to develop. Within the legislative and bureaucratic arenas, persistent institutional weakness became an opportunity for civil society to mobilize resources from foreign donors to strengthen the capacity of state institutions. Through programs aimed at enhancing the capacity of state institutions, foreign donors played a critical role in framing the relationship between civil society and the state. A major finding from this research is the symbiotic relationship between civil society and the state. As the case of Ghana demonstrates, where the state provides opportunities for civil society to develop, an effective civil society in turn contributes to building the democratic state. Findings from this research provide theoretical implications for the literature on civil society and democracy by highlighting the role of democratic institutions in strengthening civil society.