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Global Civil Society - Essay Example

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The sudden collapse of the Cold War represented more than just the peaceful conclusion of a nearly five decade long conflict between the United States and Soviet Union. Scholars and policy makers alike were not only left to explain the rapid events of 1989/90, but they also, in many ways, looked into an unknowing future…
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Global Civil Society
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Download file to see previous pages Through much of the Cold War, realism (a later neorealism) dominated the international relations literature. This particular focus placed an almost exclusive emphasis on the state. However, with the introduction of concepts like interdependence theory in the 1970s by scholar like Keohane and Nye (1977), alternative positions started to emerge. These alternative - neoliberalism in particular - approaches argued that economics and scare resources forced states to interact with each other in increasingly frequency and in doing so states ceded sovereignty to international institutions.
While neorealism remained dominant even after the Cold War, these alternatives raised important questions not only about state sovereignty, but also about the existence of international actors and their relationship with the state and between each other. One particular approach that gained momentum after the Cold War was the concept of Global Civil Society (GCS). GCS examines non-state actors such as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), non-state organisations and social movements as a whole. Many of these concepts, though, are not new to the post-Cold War era. Rather, within the past two decades, GCS has come to refer to a specific set of actors whose interactions influence the globalised world and particularly challenge the state as an alternative form of governance; with these non-state actors playing an increasingly important role in international affairs. Accordingly, this paper seeks to identify the main actors in GCS and critically assess their roles. First, this essay will define GCS as to generally outline the concept. Section two will introduce the main actors and their roles. Finally, the conclusion will offer suggestions on the future of GCS; which will depend in large part on how current actors perceive and cooperate with each other.
Define Global Civil Society
While the concept of GCS was greatly developed after the Cold War, its origins can be traced back much earlier and include the idea of civil society. Heywood (2002, p.8) notes that "civil society consists of what Edmund Burke called 'little platoons', institutions such as the family and kinship groups, private business, trade unions, clubs, community groups." Civil society was separate from the mechanisms of the state and, to varying degrees, influenced domestic state behaviour. And as the state interacted with other states with increasing frequency through the 18th century, so too did non-state actors. Through the mid-20th century, Lawson (2003, p. 50) notes that NGOs and international organizations started to significantly increase their interaction with states and this constituted the emergence of 'international civil society'. While states still dominated, these non-state actors exerted more influence on the fabric of international relations. Yet, the framework and the interaction of these non-state actors were such that it was not long before the 'international' transitioned into the 'global'.
Like many concepts in international relations, GCS does not have a universally agreed definition. Axford (2002, p. 558) states "the existence of global civil society - a zone of transnational association and deliberation under the control on neither states nor markets ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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