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CIAO DATE: 05/03

Civil Society Romanticism: A Sceptical View

Bjørn Møller

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
November 2002

Even though social movements in general, and transnational ones in particular, have a long history (viz. the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century), their role is arguably increasing. Even though the concept of social movements is broader than that of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the latter play a prominent, and apparently growing, role as the organisational pillars of social movements. 1

NGOs have been defined by the UN as “any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level”, 2 which is probably as good a definition as any, and which I shall use in the following. Alternatively one might, of course, define NGOs as progressive or democratic, but that would tend to render most analyses circular. However, a lot of NGOs “happen to be” progressive as well as, in a certain sense at least, democratic—at least in the sense of representing a “democratic corrective” to governments.


Note 1: On transnational social movemenrs see Keck, Margeret E. & Kathryn Sikkink: Activists beyond Borders. Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, NJ: Cornell University Press, 1998); Smith, Jackie, Charles Chatfield & Ron Pagnucco (eds.): Transnational Social Movements and Global Politics (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997), especially idem, idem & idem: “Social Movements and World Politics: A Theoretical Framework”, pp. 59-80; Ekins, Paul: A New World Order. Grassroots Movements for Global Change (London: Routledge, 1992). Back

Note 2: Back