How Global is Global Civil Society?

Neera Chandhoke

Abstract


In recent times the concept of global civil society has made its appearance on national and international intellectual, as well as political agendas, in a major way. It is of some interest that two other concepts, both of which call for transcendence of national boundaries in precisely the same way as global civil society does, have also made their appearance on the scene of intellectual debates at roughly the same time: the concept of cosmopolitanism and that of transnational justice. All three concepts have dramatically expanded the notion of commitment to ones fellow beings beyond the nation state. And all three concepts have extended critiques of policies that violate the dignity of human beings from national governments to the practices of inter-national institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Forum. In sum the inter-related concepts of global civil society, cosmopolitanism, and transnational justice have greatly enlarged the traditional domain of political theory. And yet for any political theorist who is acutely conscious of the phenomenon of power, these concepts are not unproblematic. For the practices of global civil society may just reinforce the intellectual and the moral power of the West over the postcolonial world. This is particularly true of say global human rights organizations. This paper will attempt to raise some questions of the concept and the practices of global civil society from the perspective of the countries of the South.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2005.388

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