[Constructing World Culture: International Nongovernmental Organizations since 1875]

Article excerpt

Since the mid-1980s and especially during the complex humanitarian emergencies in Somalia and Rwanda and, more recently, in Kosovo, international relations scholars have paid increased attention to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) because of their (albeit sometimes contested) efficiency in field operations and expanded scope of activity. Conflict mediation has now been added to their traditional emphasis on development or relief missions. Many of the studies are region-specific, public policy oriented (exploring for example the pros and cons of government subcontracting to SGOs) and limited to the behaviour of NGOs in relation to other actors (states, INGOs, and so on). What was missing was an overarching theory; in Constructing World Culture, Boli and Thomas fill precisely this gap.

According to the editors' world polity institutionalism theory, INGOs are the pivotal agents in the construction of world culture. They reason that world culture, like all other cultures, becomes embedded in social global organizations, which become the active shapers of the scenes that orient other actors, including states. This is in stark contrast to neoliberal institutionalists for whom institutions are in the end still reducible to state interests.

The book's neo-Grotian challenge is based on a number of premises: that culture is increasingly global; that world cultural principles and institutions shape the actions of states, firms, individuals, and other subunits; and that world polity is not reducible to states, transnational corporations, or interest groups. …