Creating a Better World: Interpreting Global Civil Society

Creating a Better World: Interpreting Global Civil Society

Creating a Better World: Interpreting Global Civil Society

Creating a Better World: Interpreting Global Civil Society


• Takes an interdisciplinary approach to interpreting global civil society
• Contributors are some of the leading theoreticians in the field
• A sound handbook for activism

The term "global civil society" has become a catchphrase of our times. But efforts to define and interpret what global civil society actually is have led to ambiguity and dispute. This major work of scholarship and advocacy pierces through the generalizations and debates. It presents cogent examples of groups within civil society--from the Seattle and Genoa protesters to transnational grassroots movements, such as Slum/Shack Dwellers International--that are creatively meeting the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly interconnected world.

The contributors offer clarity and the hope that another world is possible--one in which civil society's global networks can effectively create a free, fair, and just global order. Scholars, students, and anyone interested in understanding new forces influencing contemporary world politics will want to have this book on their shelves.


Rupert Taylor

The phrase global civil society is now fairly commonplace—within academia, in the mass media, and among a broader public. This has been a recent development, within the last decade or so. That said, the topic of global civil society is one of much confusion and contestation; among commentators there is a sense that this is a phenomenon which is less than fully understood and which defies conventional means of analysis. For example, Henry Milner has made the point that “though much is written about gcs [global civil society] both in academe and in the mainstream and alternative media, it remains very much under-researched, and, indeed, under-defined” (Milner 2003, 190); and Peter Waterman has remarked that the provenance of the term is not well grounded and that global civil society has not yet passed “through the forge of theoretical clarification or the sieve of public debate” (Waterman 1996, 170). Similarly, writing in the journal Contemporary Sociology, Peter Evans has argued that “analysis and theory have not caught up to practice when it comes to progressive action at the global level” (Evans 2000, 231); and Paul Kingsnorth has observed that “often the language and the methods are not yet available to describe what is happening” (Kingsnorth 2003, 233–34).

Indeed, global civil society has been taken to refer to many different organizational forms and types of global action. When employed, the term has served as a kind of catchall term for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements of all shapes and sizes operating in the international realm. Typical is the view of The Economist (1999), which refers to a diverse and diffuse range of actors, campaigns, and events as falling within the ambit of global civil society: NGOs and citizens’ groups; 50 Years Is Enough and Jubilee 2000; the Rio Earth Summit and the battle of Seattle. in general, the ever-increasing number of . . .

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