Journal of Civil Society

Published by Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Online ISSN: 1744-8697
Print ISSN: 1744-8689
John Clark explains in his essay that the crisis of civil society today is driven by a number of external causes, including the recent financial crisis and the re-assertion of state power, but their negative consequences are amplified by an inability of activists to articulate appropriate solutions to global problems. We argue here, primarily from the perspective of US-based transnational non-governmental organizations (NGOs), that Clark describes mostly symptoms of two larger, structural developments driving the civil society sector over the past two decades. First, the fragmentation of civil society did not start with the three crises, but has been an endemic problem for some time, resulting from the equally splintered funding structures and growing competition.Second, we argue that the lack of solutions provided by civil society actors has to be understood in the context of increasingly ambitious goals of CSOs which have moved beyond limited strategies such as letter-writing campaigns or ‘aid as charity’ to address in a more holistic way complex problems such as global poverty, the global food crisis, or climate change.
Many studies have emerged in recent years examining the impact of the arts on educational outcomes, physical and mental health outcomes, local economies, and community well-being. Yet considerably less attention has been given to the impact that participation in the arts has on social behaviour that promotes a civil society. This study seeks to remedy this gap in the literature by examining the effect that both audience-based arts participation and direct participation in the arts have on three measures of civil society. We rely on data from the General Social Survey, which offers information on the arts participation behaviour of a random sample of adults living in the USA (n = 1.341). Multivariate analysis is used to estimate the effects of audience-based arts participation as well as personal participation in the arts (creating art) on three dimensions of civil society: Civic engagement, social tolerance, and other-regarding behaviour. We find strong evidence that the arts enhance civil society. Both audience-based participation in the arts and personal participation in creating art are linked to higher levels of civic engagement, higher levels of social tolerance on some dimensions of the measure, and higher levels of other-regarding behaviour. Our findings have important implications, in that they demonstrate a strong association between the arts and individual-level social outcomes that contribute to the health of civil society.
In analyses of the sources of social trust, it has been found that voluntary organizations have no effect upon it. Such analyses have overlooked the role of civil society organizations as intermediary structures between the citizen and the state. This article explores how organizations, linked together in corporatist networks, help generate trust. Two mechanisms for this are pointed out. First, in societies with strong corporatist networks conflicts between employers and employees are perceived as less strong than in societies with weak corporatist networks. Second, as societies with strong corporatist networks also are more egalitarian, conflicts between rich and poor are also perceived as less pronounced than in societies with weak corporatist networks. This analysis provides definite indications that the perception of conflicts between workers and managers, and the perception of conflicts between rich and poor are intermediary variables between corporatism and social trust, and thus supports the hypothesis that voluntary organizations, through corporatist networks of negotiation and coordination, contribute to the growth of social trust.
This article seeks to provide insight into the formulation of non-governmental organization (NGO) and transnational advocacy network (TAN) campaign strategy. We argue that the history of previous campaigns comprises an important aspect of the political opportunity structure faced by NGOs and TANs. We also argue that when formulating campaign strategy, campaigners should not only consider the legacies of previous campaigns, but also how their current strategies could impact on political opportunity structure and thereby influence future campaigns. This article uses the case study of the movement against seal hunting in Atlantic and Northern Canada and considers the potential for collaboration between previous opponents on other environmental issues. We examine the history of the anti-sealing campaigns looking at the various actors involved, and the impact that these campaigns had on these actors and their current relations with one another. The case study demonstrates that the history of previous campaigns matters and that history is a vital component of political opportunity structure.
Much research has implied that social capital functions as an unqualified “public good,” enhancing governance, economic performance, and quality of life (Coleman 1988; Cohen and Arato 1992; Putnam 1993; Cohen and Rogers 1995). Scholars of disaster (Nakagawa and Shaw 2004; Adger et al. 2005; Dynes 2005; Tatsuki 2008) have extended this concept to posit that social capital provides nonexcludable benefits to whole communities after major crises. Using qualitative methods to analyze data from villages in Tamil Nadu, India following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, this paper demonstrates that high levels of social capital simultaneously provided strong benefits and equally strong negative externalities, especially to those already on the periphery of society. In these villages, high levels of social capital reduced barriers to collective action for members of the uur panchayats (hamlet councils) and parish councils, speeding up their recovery and connecting them to aid organizations, but at the same time reinforced obstacles to recovery for women, Dalits, migrants, and Muslims. These localized findings have important implications for academic studies of social capital and policy formation for future disasters and recovery schemes.
Distribution of interviewees in Bhuj and Bachhau.
List of communities interviewed.
Researchers argue that social networks based on shared values, trust, and norms can facilitate collective action, and such social capital increases the ability of communities to recover after a disaster, implying that the presence of social capital ensures collective community action after a disaster and enables recovery. Drawing from comparative case studies of Bhuj and Bachhau, urban centres impacted by the 2001 Gujarat earthquake in India, this study presents a nuanced view of the role of social capital during post-disaster recovery. It argues that it is important to consider community contexts that are inherent to the amount of social capital available and the use of resources through social networks. The study demonstrates that strong internal bonds based on mutual trust did not necessarily lead to collective action for post-disaster housing recovery among communities in Bhuj and Bachhau. Moreover, the amount of social capital available through bonding networks differed among communities, depending upon their pre-disaster networks and the resources embedded in them. The study findings expand upon the role of social capital during disaster recovery; in particular, they contribute to public policy debates on the ability of communities to engage in collective action to meet post-disaster housing needs.
The literature on transnational civil society tends to treat civil society organizations (CSOs) as independent actors, accomplishing policy change largely through moral force or popular pressure. However, a significant portion of CSO successes in policy advocacy actually utilizes alliances with state actors. To understand the implications of this ‘state channel’ of CSO influence, we develop a new model of CSO use of state influence. We identify four factors that determine whether the state channel is accessible for CSOs to use and is likely to produce more effective CSO influence than direct CSO engagement with the international organization (IO): the porousness of the targeted states and IOs, the availability of contacts, the possibility for alignment of interests, and the relative power of aligned state and IO contacts. We illustrate this theory using four case studies of civil society engagement: two case studies involving the World Bank and two involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Our analysis suggests that the factors determining CSOs' successful use of the state channel currently tend to favour a small number of well-resourced, reformist CSOs from porous and powerful states.
This article assesses in what ways and to what degrees civil society activities have advanced the legitimacy of global governance institutions. It is argued that these citizen initiatives have often enhanced the democratic, legal, moral and technical standing of regulatory agencies with planetary constituencies and jurisdictions. However, these benefits do not flow automatically from civil society mobilizations and on the whole are much less extensive than they could be. With a view to greater realization of the potential contributions to legitimacy, the article elaborates recommendations for more, more inclusive, more competent, more coordinated, and more accountable engagement of global governance by civil society organizations.
Financial power includes the ability to create and allocate credit-based money, to call on government subsidies, to decide which economic projects go ahead, and to determine the intellectual and political agendas for regulation. Regulators, politicians, and market self-regulation mechanisms failed to hold these powers to account throughout the financial crisis. Reform advocates in civil society have struggled to fill the gap in the face of powerful lobbying by the financial industry. Finance Watch was created in 2011 in response to a call from MEPs for a counter-lobby and has established itself as an effective, independent public interest advocate. Its presence highlights a number of ways for reform advocates to coordinate their actions and for policy-makers to help bring financial power to account. These include asking policy-makers to engage more with non-industry respondents, give greater weight to non-industry voices in consultations and increase financial and technical support for public interest advocacy.
The main interest of this paper in exploring the rise of environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) active in Shanghai is to determine their efficacy in influencing green politics and whether the outcome of the negotiation process (with the state) is successful or not. What is meant by efficacy for the purpose of this paper is the ability to generate pressure for political response with regards to environmental problems. Throughout the article, major case studies in which ENGOs have played a critical role in generating political response to environmental problems will be presented and studied. Theoretical literature from foreign and Chinese sources will be analysed and compared, in order to detect whether these case studies represent singular incidents or examples of a common phenomenon. Inherent difficulties in researching a complex topic like the influence of ENGOs active in Shanghai on green politics make some of the arguments in this article plain tentative. Further empirical as well as statistical data will be needed to provide more detailed conclusions.
Shaping active citizenship, motivating civic engagement, and increasing political participation of minority groups have become some of the key political priorities in the UK since at least the end of the 1980s. Academic research shows that this shift goes hand-in-hand with a review of the integration policies in the country. The ‘politics of integration’ correspond in fact to a policy response to various social problems (such as discrimination, racism, intolerance) that emerged in various areas, and represent a new political discourse regarding active citizenship. This reflects an overall strategy meant to reframe the basis for civic and political engagement and participation in Britain. Our article is thus meant to highlight the dynamics underlying the development of the concept of active citizenship in the UK by looking at the factors that intervene in its shaping and enhancement. We identify political priorities and key mechanisms of participation that enable engagement in the public sphere. This article first considers the development of the specific ‘British discourse’ regarding active citizenship by taking into consideration the political priorities that emerged as part of the New Right discourse in the 1980s and then New Labour after 1997. We then refer to a set of data collected during our field work conducted in the UK between 2010 and 2011 with civil society activists and policy-makers in order to underline the meaning, practices, and feasibility of active citizenship.
Voluntary organizations are generally perceived as important arenas in which social integration can be fostered. There is, however, no consensus on the meaning of such integration, and the empirical evidence for the claim is lacking. This article studies social integration within voluntary sport organizations, which make up a significant element of civil society in most Western societies. The article provides a theoretical framework well suited for the study of social integration, which differentiates members according to their levels of social interaction and emotional bonding across four community types: Strong, pragmatic, mediated, and weak. When applying this framework to the case of Danish sport organizations, the distribution of members among the four community types indicates that, although sport organizations are important arenas for the development of social integration, there is also a large minority of members who do not experience social integration. This article shows that both individual characteristics linked to members and organizational characteristics linked to sport organizations exert significant influence on the level and nature of social integration. Jointly, the results demonstrate that there are grounds to reassess the general conception that sport organizations are important arenas in which social integration can be fostered.
The article analyses closely the role of civil society in the local translation and adaptation of transnational standards of responsible use of natural resources in global certification regimes. The study builds on original evidence from Russia on civil society and forest certification, based on extensive fieldwork. It argues that the local translation of global sustainability standards into on-the-ground practices is not a straightforward execution of rules imposed by powerful transnational actors—e.g. international nongovernmental organizations, multinationals, governments, or consumers. Rather, local civil society actors elaborate the ways in which transnational standards are implemented locally and thereby construct new knowledge related to standard implementation and responsible natural resource management. The paper contributes to the literature on transnational governance by examining the involvement of civil society organizations in the translation, adaptation, and learning dynamics in global certification regimes.
This article examines ways in which social movements have been impacted and responded in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March and May 2020, lockdown measures put a halt to mass protests for democracy, and the virus spread became the only political focus and news headline. Far from disappearing, social movements have adapted to unexpected circumstances and been particularly active during this challenging period. The first section of the article provides an overview of grassroots movements initiatives to complete five roles. The second section focuses on the struggle over the meaning of the crisis. While progressive intellectuals and movements consider the COVID-19 pandemic opened opportunities to build a fairer world, they compete with reactionary, capitalist and state actors to shape the meaning of the crisis and the world that may come out of it. The intensity of social justice movements’ initiatives during the lockdown may show the outlines of a global wave of movements, embodied in countless decentralized reactions to a global event that affected has shaken billions of human lives.
This study uses the case of a German American association in the 1920s as a historical case study to gain a better understanding of the integration of an immigrant group in American society. Philanthropy, membership recruitment tactics, and associational mission are used as analytical categories in the analysis of German Americans’ processes of assimilation against the background of the aftermath of the First World War and Prohibition. Philanthropy and associational membership provide a vantage point for studying dynamics of identity, assimilation, and integration. The study argues that the difficulty of transitioning from a membership of German origin to a membership of second-generation immigrants played a major role in the progressive membership decline of this organization. This study points to challenges of an ethnic-based membership association in maintaining its relevance within an immigrant community in the face major political, social, and economic transformations, while attempting to renew its membership.
What is the meaning and role of civil society in Afghanistan? And what contribution could civil society actors make to promoting peace and political reform? Drawing on a research and dialogue project conducted in 2009–2012, this article explores local understandings and practices of civil society in Afghanistan, and examines their relationship to security and social change. It argues that studying civil society can help shed light on the changing dynamics of political authority and security in the country, as well as offer new avenues for promoting progressive change. The article addresses some of the conceptual and analytical limitations of dominant narratives about civil society in conflict-affected environments, demonstrating how they tend to neglect certain forms of agency that have the potential to be transformative.
The People’s Food Policy Project (PFPP) used ‘food sovereignty’ to unite civil society organizations and build a national food policy agenda in Canada from 2008 to 2011. Agri-food scholarship largely highlights the resistance and empowerment dynamic of food sovereignty in the context of neoliberal capital relations. We propose that the story of what food sovereignty discourse does, or could do, in the work of civil society organizations (CSOs), is more complicated. This article contributes to agri-food literature and CSOs studies by examining the governmentalities of the PFPP. We find that the PFPP’s food sovereignty produced at least two discourses: food sovereignty as ethic, or a governmentality of resistance and agrarian empowerment; and food sovereignty as tactic, which we see as a governmentality of administration by CSOs. While PFPP activists increasingly share a spoken commitment to food sovereignty, the analytic of governmentality allows us to show these important differences in the movement, rooted in how CSO actors understand their day-to-day work, and the tensions these differences bring to their seemingly united agenda.
Scholars have identified various conditions that influence the formation of spontaneous collective action. Certain types of opposition strategies and geographic conditions make it likelier for protesters to be able to overcome reactive repression and keep mobilizing after experiencing state violence. As such, it is still unclear why a small protest sometimes diffuses into an unforeseen mass wave of dissent. Through examination of Turkish civil society, this study introduces a framework to explain the emergence of the 2013 Gezi protest, which was the largest in the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) government-led era of Turkish politics. A sequence of mechanisms including viral diffusion, elite updating/cover-up, public outrage, and coordination are categorized and linked to previously identified antecedent conditions as well as Twitter activity of social movement organizations which took part in the protests. The framework advances our knowledge of repression backfire by identifying its causal mechanisms and classifying a configuration of conditions under which the phenomenon is likely to empirically take place.
In 2015, the Hyogo Framework for Action on disaster risk reduction (DRR) expired, necessitating the introduction of a new international agreement. This article investigates the activities and achievements of the Japan civil society organization coalition for the 2015 UN World Conference on DRR (JCC2015) from the point of view of its involvement in the shaping of the new Sendai Framework for DRR. Although JCC2015 contributed to agenda setting and policy development processes and managed to secure recognition for its position on nuclear risk at a regional level, its participation did not translate into impact on the Sendai Framework to the extent it wished to achieve. The article’s findings testify to the on-going and active inclusion of non-governmental stakeholders in the UN-led global policy-making processes concerning reducing disaster risk, but they also illustrate difficulties that actors who aim to introduce new elements into the agenda need to tackle.
In 2018, one of the largest international development non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the world, Oxfam GB, became engulfed in a scandal which quickly spread to other international NGOs (INGOs). The crisis arose from the sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH) of the beneficiaries and staff of leading INGOs and caused significant reputational harm to these organizations amid declining public trust and intense political and media scrutiny. The crisis raises significant questions about the credibility of INGOs and the policies necessary to restore public trust. This article reviews the background to the crisis and the responses to it from Oxfam GB & Oxfam International, by other INGOs and by the funders and regulators tasked with overseeing them, focusing on the United Kingdom. It then analyses these actions in the context of an analytical framework proposed in Gourevitch, Lake & Stein (Eds)(2012). It argues that the Oxfam scandal of 2018 marks a fundamental shift in the manner in which INGOs must promote accountability and transparency, based on high-quality, culturally-inclusive, learning-based management.
There is great interest in co-creation of welfare production between municipalities and the civil society in the Nordic countries. Using linking social capital as a theoretical point of departure and examining a qualitative case study in Norway, I critically assess the concepts of co-creation and ‘Municipality 3.0’. It is suggested that even in countries with high trust in the authorities, building linking social capital in the shape of interorganizational networks is a complex process fraught with potential barriers related to trust, network building, municipal resources, and statutory laws and regulations. And while outcomes are promising, they are far from certain.
In South Kivu in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), various church actors have chosen to involve in advocacy and mobilization through a formalized civil society structure known as La Société Civile (LSC). In this article, we explore the relationship between the churches and civil society in Eastern DRC, paying particular attention to why this cooperation has taken such a formalized expression, the motivations of church actors to become involved in LSC and, finally, how this relationship between different civil society actors has underpinned various peacebuilding efforts at the local, provincial, and national scale.
The European financial crisis has inspired a wave of social activism, challenging established party politics. In Ireland, a large social protest movement produced a Right2Change political campaign in 2015 that confronted the right-wing consensus in Irish politics. Some activists sought to emulate and learn from the example of new parties like Spain’s Podemos. Yet, to date, the traditional party structure remains intact, and hopes of emulating the success of activists elsewhere remain muted. At the same time, anti-austerity activism in Ireland has seen a conscious attempt to engage in intense dialogue with the pan-European experience. Irish activists have looked to Europe before for inspiration and a sharing of experiences; but the most recent attempt to create a Europeanised public space in response to the perceived ‘blockage’ in the Irish party system is something fairly innovative. This article, based in part on ten semi-structured interviews with politicians and social movement activists, considers the achievements and failings of the Irish anti-austerity movement to date.
The article explores whether study abroad programmes sponsored by multilateral and bilateral development organizations and private philanthropic foundations promote civic engagement of their alumni upon their return to their home country. The article focuses on the case of Kyrgyzstan, which has had a number of international study abroad scholarship programmes since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The research was exploratory and utilized in-depth interviews for collecting data. In agreement with the literature, the research found that the alumni of scholarship programmes had experienced changes in their values and worldviews as a result of being exposed to a new environment but also of having a formalized study programme that enabled them to critically reflect on their own country and culture and to expand their knowledge in the new context. These changes prompted most participants in the research to be civically engaged in the social and political issues of their society in their home country through voluntarism. Importantly, the article expands the literature by arguing that this civic engagement has positive implications for the development of civil society and democratic values and practices in Kyrgyzstan.
This article takes Alexis de Tocqueville’s concern with the emotional life of citizens as a cue for exploring the role of collective memory within ‘the self-organizing sphere’ and asking how the invocation of memory affects progress towards democracy. The article hones in on the Brazilian experience, re-assessing Brazil’s amnesiac past as well as its much-lauded ‘turn to memory’. Against common assertions that Brazil’s ‘turn to memory’ will enhance the country’s democratic credentials, this article argues that the move from an ‘absent’ to a ‘present’ past in Brazil in fact bodes rather mixed prospects for the country’s democratic deepening.
The stage in which countries formally decide on whether to participate in (i.e., ratify) international agreements is crucial to global governance efforts. The reason is that, by and large, international agreements with greater participation are more likely to contribute to effective problem solving. We study the role procedural design characteristics of agreements play in such decisions. Specifically, we examine whether treaties’ provisions allowing non-state actors to participate in treaty making, which is widely regarded as an important procedural aspect of governance, increases the likelihood of ratification. Our empirical testing relies on a new time-series-cross-sectional dataset that includes information on the ratification behaviour of 154 countries with respect to 178 multilateral environmental agreements in 1950–2011. We find that treaty provisions allowing for greater non-state actor access to the meetings of the parties indeed increase the likelihood of treaty ratification. The result is robust to controlling for the effects of various other treaty design characteristics and country characteristics on ratification behaviour. The main policy implication is that, despite occasional debate over drawbacks of involvement of non-state actors, the latter tends to support global environmental governance efforts and should be further enhanced.
Since the fall of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, the economic downturn has taken a heavy toll on many countries. In the public and academic discourse on necessary remedies and reforms, the spotlight is on the role of political elites and business. The actual and potential role of civil society is hardly mentioned in these debates. Yet, it is within civil society that an alternative paradigm and fundamental rethinking of conventional wisdom may emerge. In this collection, we present three different ways to frame the crisis and explore the corresponding roles of civil society actors: Reinforcing public accountability, regaining democracy, and exploring post-growth scenarios. Our goal is to investigate the potentially transformative role of civil society in order to reflect on possible paths towards social change that are not merely remedial but also (re-)constructive in nature.
Since 2008, the international economic and financial crisis has been affecting the living and working conditions of European citizens in different ways and scope. Yet, the pattern is of rising unemployment, social deprivation and poverty, cuts in health, education and social security budgets. These negative socio-economic conditions have led to major transformations in collective responses, which, among others, take place through Alternative Action Organisations (AAOs). The specific organizations carry out non-mainstream activities that primarily target the economic and the social well-being of citizens, including their basic needs, health and lifestyles. Using quantitative data from the LIVEWHAT project and drawing on social origins theory and resource mobilization theory, the article investigates AAOs’ main characteristics across four European countries that have been differently affected from the recent recession as well as belong to different welfare state and third sector regimes, including Germany, Greece, Sweden and Poland. The findings stress the importance of considering the particular combinations of the welfare state and third sector regimes as well as the severity of the experienced economic crisis in understating the variation in AAOs’ main features under a comparative perspective.
This article integrates previous research on NGO behaviour with economic theory on collective action to create a generalizable and predictive model of advocacy campaign growth. It identifies three types of goods which NGOs may pursue in advocacy: unlimited, non-rival (public) goods; rival and excludable (private) goods; and rival but non-excludable goods. It then models an individual NGO’s decision to (not) join an existing advocacy campaign using a cost-benefit analysis conditioned by the presence or absence of competition for the good(s) sought by the NGO. This model of individual behaviour forms the basis for predicting collective action among NGOs with varying cost structures and pursuing a variety of rival and non-rival goods. The theory is illustrated using two cases of NGOs campaigning on World Bank policy.
This article presents and empirically evaluates an analytical experiment in which we seek to translate individual-level explanations of differences in political participation to an organizational level. Utilizing the Civic Voluntarism Model, we analyse the consequences of voluntary associations’ politically valuable ‘resources’, ‘motivation’, and ‘recruitment networks’. Using data from a survey of ethnic associations in Stockholm, Sweden, results suggest that the overall logic of how associational-level political participation is encouraged resembles corresponding mechanisms on the individual level. We conclude that both our theoretical argument and empirical findings merit further analyses of civil society actors’ political participation with the approach taken in this study.
Types of goods.
Case characteristics.
Self-organized citizens’ initiatives are a form of collective action and contribute to society through the production of public goods and services. Traditional collective action theory predicts that such initiatives are near impossible because of the persistent problems of free-riding. Citizens’ initiatives however do exist and function properly, and their numbers seem to be increasing in countries such as the Netherlands. This article argues that free-riding problems can be overcome when some form of exclusivity is arranged in citizens’ initiatives. We assume that citizens’ initiatives use active and/or passive strategies to limit free-riding behaviour. Using three illustrative cases, our research shows that position rules, boundary rules, and authority rules are used in a subtle and often implicit way to differentiate the level of influence and authority between the more and the less committed members, enabling collective action. Such rules, though advantageous, may be paradoxical to the goals of the citizens’ initiatives and can undermine the virtues associated with them.
While sexual minorities have produced large and efficacious social movements in many countries, there are few systematic studies on why gays and lesbians join these movements. To address this void, this study created a unique sample of activist and non-activist listservs to identify some factors that inspired greater involvement in protests for gay and lesbian equality (n = 285). Through the use of binary logistic regression, this study highlights the importance of several contextual, framing, and demographic variables on the protesting actions of sexual minorities. In particular, the act of protesting for gay and lesbian rights was predicted by involvement in voluntary groups, the concealment of sexual orientations, a concern over institutionalized heterosexism, and the internalizing several sorts of activist identities. Finally, racial background, but not gender, age, or economic factors, was associated with attendance at gay and lesbian rights demonstrations.
During the international financial crisis, Portugal found itself in a very difficult and vulnerable socioeconomic situation that has led to an increase in social inequalities. This article seeks to understand two things: firstly, how much the impacts of the crisis contributed to a general perception that people's social position has gone backwards, compared to their pre-crisis situations; secondly, whether it is possible to link this generalized perception that living conditions have gone downhill to an increase in and diversification of collective action practices. The authors analyse data from a 2014 survey of 1,500 residents of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, which they use to measure how far the level of collective action practices has increased and varied in accordance with a set of social inequality indicators, such as resource and educational inequalities.
Popular protest, civil society organizing, and non-governmental organizations have become notable features in China’s socio-political development. A mounting body of research has documented both opening opportunity structures and remaining restrictions when it comes to collective action within the authoritarian state. However, given the wide range of definitions and interpretations that are at play in the literature, it can be difficult to distinguish between different forms of collective action and determine which actions represent actual movements. This article argues that a refocus towards the basic components that constitute movement action can provide more clarity and help explain the limitations, as well as the opportunities, that surround collective action within authoritarian states. To illustrate, the article studies the organizational growth, networking, and collective action that have occurred in connection with AIDS in China. It finds that political restrictions and other coordination challenges prevent the mobilization of actual social movements.
Studies of social movements usually concentrate on explanations of participation. Much less attention is given to non-participation. In this article, we develop a social–psychological theory of non-participation. To some extent, non-participation is the flip side of participation, but it also has dynamics of its own. Theoretical notions are applied in an illustrative manner to the dynamics of collective action against nuclear weapons in the Netherlands and two demonstrations of secondary school pupils. In examining reasons to defect any farther, we explore the impact of people's social environment. It turns out that the majority of the respondents adopt the norms of their environment. That is to say, the vast majority of the pupils who participate in collective action are from milieus that approve of their participation. The vast majority of those who did not participate, on the other hand, are from milieus that approve of their non-participation.
In this article, the author argues that civil society can actively foster anti-democratic agendas that propel young democracies on an autocratic path. Therefore, civil society is not idly coopted by regimes as existing studies generally suggest. The author’s analysis is drawn on Thailand as an extreme case whose historical roots of authoritarianism, consolidated anti-system elites, protracted polarisation, and extensive repression configure the unique development of authoritarian civil society (ACS). The author demonstrates the components and repertoires of ACS that have induced democratic collapse and subsequently autocratic surge in Thailand. First, anti-election networks’ mass mobilisation set the scene for anti-system elites, including the Constitutional Court and the military, to oust democratically elected governments. Second, vigilante groups’ digital surveillance and legal harassment have instilled self-censorship that shrinks civic spaces for democratic dialogue, while reinforcing the uneven electoral playing field favourable to the autocratic regime. Lastly, rightwing media that frames pro-democracy civic groups as foreign agents helps boost the regime’s justification for restricting the international support for these groups. The author anticipates this article to be an entry point for future comparative research on the conditions and tactics of ACS in other autocratic settings.
Media reports in recent years suggest that Germany has become a movement society. Whenever there is a new infrastructure project (e.g. Stuttgart 21), affected citizens get actively involved in the political process surrounding it—or so it seems. The assumption of existing literature on protest and social movements appears to be true to the ongoing discussion about civic participation. Nevertheless, the current study sheds light on the fact that most affected citizens remain inactive in relation to infrastructure projects in their neighbourhoods. Blame does not lie with the disinterest of the people or their unwillingness to be part of the political process—the opposite is the case. People demonstrate a feeling of moral responsibility to enter the political arena as citizens, but a lack of resources seems to restrain them from doing so. This study shows that, to escape this dilemma, affected citizens hand over the responsibility to existing civic action groups.
In this article, we present a novel way of researching civil society in a comparative perspective and illustrate it through a detailed analysis of public disputes concerning urban building construction projects in St. Petersburg and Helsinki in 2008–2009. In our illustration, we use justification theory, a line of thought developed by Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot in the early 1990s, but until now little used in comparative civil society research. Moreover, we use a variant of Public Justification Analysis, a new method for analysing media data. Our focus is on moral justifications, that is, on arguments which are presented against or in favour of the proposed projects and which draw on shared moral principles. Clear differences were found in referrals to these principles by urban activists in Russia and Finland. We argue that justification theory enables both international comparisons as well as inclusion of specific features of national political cultures.
Transnational social movement organizations manage meaning and transmit meaning across borders. Organizations in the peace and human rights sector also often deal overtly in the construction, framing, translation, and distribution of meanings. This article describes a hybrid form of idealism that is defined herein as ‘idealist activism’. In describing idealist activism, this article identifies a form of meaning management that emphasizes engagement with humanity both in the service of and in the quest for universal truths and tenets, as opposed to the more widely acknowledged cosmopolitanism emphasis on engagement with universal truths and tenets in the service of humanity. The significance of idealist activism is explained not just in terms of the depth and breadth of its influence, but also with regard to its pertinence as an alternative to both political cosmopolitanism and religious idealism.
Legal mobilization has spread in China over the past 20 years and is generally considered by both activists and scholars as a way to advance democracy and rule of law. Focusing on the mobilization in favour of migrant workers and on politically moderate practices, which are both more frequent and widely held as more successful, I argue to the contrary that resistance and reproduction of political domination are mutually constitutive. Public interest litigation and administrative litigation appear as new forms of political participation that constitute an internal regulation to the authoritarian regime, thus contributing to explain the regime's capacity to adapt and its durability. This article also accounts for new strategies developed by some lawyers that shun the courts and use law to ‘empower civil society’ and that thus do not contribute to structural reproduction. Though activists are struggling to turn their strategies into more institutionalized practices, they remain an ad hoc mechanism of internal control.
Academic work has noted a growth in the prominence of civil society in international political-economic life, yet the conditions under which such civil society presence is developed, the ways in which it is manifest and their implications are still incompletely understood. The recent international policy debate on the allocation of spectrum provides a useful case for research aiming to close this gap in knowledge and is the focus of this article. It provides evidence of a significant – though ultimately highly contingent – civil society presence in the spectrum debate. It explains this through the construction of a framework of international civil society strategic alignment. This is used to illustrate and explain the conditions that allowed civil society to articulate its voice and the means through which and how this was achieved. The article contributes to the literature on civil society activism in communications by illustrating both its capacity for action – but also the highly significant limitations placed on it – in utilizing strategic alignment to engage in international public policy making debates.
This article examines how activism against austerity is organized and manifested in London. Given that anti-austerity activists are addressing issues related to social welfare, we examine whether there are alliances between the activists and voluntary organizations (VOs) that are working in that field. Examining the challenges involved in creating and sustaining alliances, we argue that the regulatory context alone is an insufficient explanation as to why activist–VO alliances are difficult to establish and maintain. We contend that more significantly, it is VOs’ and activists’ divergent and at times irreconcilable stances, which we refer to as the consensus and dissensus stances, respectively, which impede activist–VO alliances, beyond episodic interactions, from developing.
This article explores Somali transborder/transnational activism through the role of two individual actors, drawing upon their life histories and a selection of initiatives they have been involved in over time. The Somali-populated Horn of Africa provides a highly complex environment for the production of identities, based on its ethno-linguistic heritage, clan affiliations, Islam and their variable state-like affiliations in what is a highly politically fragmented context. These complex and multiple forms of identity incorporate diasporic and non-diasporic actors, all of which complicates notions of citizenship. This article draws upon social and cultural notions of citizenship (rather than legal-bureacratic) to argue that the agency expressed by the two protagonists is usefully understood as a form of evolving transborder citizenship. Furthermore, the article utilizes the concept of ‘social remittances’ to suggest that the quality of behaviour expressed by our transborder citizens is a form of ‘civicness’, reflective of an engagement with and resistance to the volatile and exclusionary politics of conflict affected contexts. Utilizing life histories enables us to explore how individuals and the networks of which they are part, pursue different strategies, to varying effects, over time and in multiple settings.
Citizen participation in Spain has significantly increased, and its repertoire has broadened as a result of the 15M Movement. From assemblies and acampadas (occupations) to the current proliferation of new political parties, there has been constant movement through a wide range of techno-political actions and experimentation with means and political tools used by civil society and activists. This article aims to reflect on this complex and novel political repertoire from a theoretical framework of civil society. This framework is complemented with the differentiation of (horizontal versus vertical) political logics used in social movement studies.
The literature on social forum activists’ gatherings takes for granted the fact that participants are engaged in global struggles. By comparing ten local social forums (LSFs) in France and Quebec, we show that whether one becomes a ‘global activist’ is an empirical question. More specifically, the article argues that the way LSFs are practised either facilitates or limits the process of becoming a global activist. More specifically, it shows that (1) the topography of events is important to ensure moments of non-planned meeting among participants and the possibilities of building a shared sense of belonging and (2) the formats of events vary in their explicit will to encourage talking (global) politics.
?Informal helping? is often associated with other types of prosocial behaviour such as formal voluntary work. Therefore, one could jump to the conclusion that it would be the same factors driving both types of activities. This article demonstrates that this is not the case. The study relies on a population survey on informal helping and volunteering in Denmark. The two contributions of this article are as follows: (1) it demonstrates that the socio-demographic indicators that are closely linked to formal volunteering are not related to informal helping in the same manner and (2) it demonstrates that it is necessary to separate the decision to help and the amount of hours that people help, a distinction that previous empirical studies on this topic fail to include. The results show that informal helping may not simply be compared to other instances of prosocial behaviour. In particular, the socio-demographic indicators that are closely linked to formal volunteering are not necessarily related to informal helping. Moreover, the results emphasize the need for including informal helping as an act of civic engagement, which ought not to be confused with other forms of engagement within the civil society.
Top-cited authors
Carolyn L Hsu
  • Colgate University
Benjamin Gidron
  • College of Management Academic Studies
Yeheskel Hasenfeld
  • University of California, Los Angeles
Lesley Hustinx
  • Ghent University
Paul Dekker
  • Tilburg University