Global Civil Society: Interventions in Global Governance

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Geography Politics and Sociology


International financial institutions (IFIs) increasingly include organisations from global civil society (typically non-government organisations such as Friends of the Earth, but also non-profit business associations) within their policy-making framework. Conducted in the name of transparency and accountability, there are concerns about how far such events truly democratise decision-making in the global political economy, and how far they are designed to neutralise vocal critics.

This research addresses these concerns along three axes. First, the identities of actors in terms of the existence of a single global civil society. Second, the contours of the political space therein. Third, the power relations that exist in such settings, focusing on the discipline demanded of actors that desire recognition as legitimate partners in global governance.

The research draws predominantly upon three theoretical approaches. First, neo-Gramscian critical theory, which views IFIs as part of a neoliberal ‘historic bloc’ whose primary aim is to enrich a transnational managerial class, using global civil society as a fig leaf to conceal its lack of democratic accountability. Second, Foucauldian work on governmentality and discipline as forms of social power. Third, an approach derived from French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan concerning the undesirability of the production of blueprints for fixed forms of social order. Through this approach, conclusions of interest both to academics and to participants in global civil society and IFIs will be reached in terms of the future democratisation of global governance.


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