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Global Civil Society: An Answer to War

Global Civil Society: An Answer to War

Mary Kaldor

ISBN: 978-0-745-65717-2

May 2013, Polity

200 pages



The terms 'global' and 'civil society' have both become part of the contemporary political lexicon. In this important new book, Mary Kaldor argues that this is no coincidence and that the reinvention of civil society has to be understood in the context of globalization. The concept of civil society is no longer confined to the borders of the territorial state. Whether one considers dissidents in repressive regimes, landless labourers in Central America, campaigners against land mines or global debt, or even religious fundamentalists, it is now possible for them to link up with other like-minded groups in different parts of the world and to address demands not just to national governments but to global institutions as well. This has opened up new opportunities for human emancipation, and, in particular, for going beyond war as a way of managing global affairs. But it also entails new risks and insecurities.

This is a book about a political idea - an idea that came out of the 1989 revolutions. It is an idea that expresses a real phenomenon, even if the boundaries and shape of the phenomenon are contested and subject to constant redefinition. The study of past debates as well as the actions and arguments of the present is a way of directly influencing the phenomenon, and of contributing to a changing reality, if possible for the better. The task is all the more urgent in the aftermath of September 11.

Global Civil Society will be read by students of politics, international relations and sociology, as well as activists, policy-makers, journalists and all those engaged in global public debates.



Chapter 1: Five Meanings of Global Civil Society.

Chapter 2: The Discourse of Civil Society.

Chapter 3: The Ideas of 1989: The Origins of the Concept of Global Civil Society.

Chapter 4: Social Movements, NGOs and Networks.

Chapter 5: Globalization, the State and War.

Chapter 6: September 11: The Return of the ‘Outside’?.



"Highly recommended."


"A powerfully persuasive book ... a must-read for students of politics, practitioners, activists, journalists, and anyone engaged in public activism."

Perspectives on Political Science

"In Global Civil Society, [Kaldor] is particularly concerned with the importance of nonstate actors in international relations, working within the constructivist tradition of international relations from an activist perspective. When she examines the theoretical roots and contemporary development of global civil society, she is hardlt a disinterested observer. ...In short, in assessing Global Civil Society, it is important to recognize both Kaldor's intellectual honesty and her explicit political commitments. She examines literature and events to develop an arguement about how to promote peace in the future. Thus, this book is a theoretical and political treatise, informed by Kaldor's reading of theory and history and also by her experience as an activist. ...Global Civil Society is a short, sharp read that is organized around a clear argument. It should be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of scholars interested in peace, war, and global civil society."

David S. Meyer, University of California, Irvine

  • Written by Mary Kaldor, a leading expert in this field and author of influential titles such as The Imaginary War and New and Old Wars.

  • Argues that the reinvention of civil society has to be understood in the context of globalisation.

  • Shows that the concept of civil society is no longer confined to the borders of the territorial state and that the distinction between a ‘democratic' West and a ‘non-democratic' East and South has become blurred.

  • Studies past debates in conjunction with the actions and arguments of the present, in order to influence the phenomenon.