Is There a Global Civil Society in the Making? Non-state Actors in World Politics
AbstractThe article addresses issues related to the growing importance of non-governmental organizations and social movements in world politics. The key question that the article deals with is whether there are structures of global political activism in the making? In other words, is a "global civil society" being constituted? If yes, how does this "global civil society" relate to local actors? Are global actors partners in the building of local activism? In addition, how do the actors of the "global civil society" relate to states? Do they transcend the confines of the state? In order to answer these questions, the article first describes the evolving debate around the issue of transnational relations. During the last decade this issue has become an important research problem in at least two social scientific disciplines -the theory of international relations and the theory of collective action. Moreover, the attention paid to transnational social movements and networks of non-governmental organizations has influenced debates in certain fields of political theory where actors described as "global civil society" came to be perceived as the manifestation of reformist hopes associated with globally organized civic activism. This activism is believed to hold the promise of future global democratization. In sum, the issue of transnational relations and transnational political action is an interdisciplinary problem. The aim of this article is to answer the specified questions above. It reflects the most important aspects of the debate on transnational political action. The ambition of the article is to critically assess both empirically oriented approaches and normatively motivated explorations of the possibilities for global democratization through political involvement of transnational movements and non-governmental organizations. The paper maintains that the concept of "global civil society" is applicable for the description of political action "beyond borders" only under the condition that it is not understood as an alternative to the institutions of the modern state and that it is not used in an ideological way.
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