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Global Civil Society

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Global Civil Society is about understanding globalisation 'from below,' from the perspective of ordinary people. We see the concept as describing an emerging reality of global civic action and connectedness. But global civil society is a highly contested concept, for which many meanings have been proposed but no agreed definition reached. We see this as an opportunity: debate about its meaning is part of what global civil society is all about.

Our research on global civil society aims to contribute to understanding "Globalisation from Below" through four types of activity: research, graduate training, interaction with practitioners, and transnational institution building.

The focus of our research is on the inter-linkage between civil society, on the one hand, and problems of global security and political economy, on the other.

The programme has three components:

(a) Concepts: The programme aims to elaborate the conceptual underpinning of global civil society.

(b) Mapping Global Civil Society: A major thrust of our work is the attempt to give substance to the concept of global civil society through empirical mapping of global civil society. Our work consists of the collection of existing data sets covering globalisation, the extension of international law and various measures of global civil society. The latter include data on international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) drawn from the Union of International Associations and on values from the World Value Survey. We also try to generate our own data through studies of parallel summits and social forums and through our chronology of global civil society events based on a network of correspondents in different parts of the world.

(c) Case Studies: Our case studies are of two kinds – issues and infrastructure. Issues refer to the role that civil society plays in relations to key global issues; hence the emphasis is on the character of the global public debate. Infrastructure case studies are about particular types of civil society actors or about aspects of their organisation, for example, funding, accountability, forms of organisation. Many of our case studies are commissioned especially for our Global Civil Society Yearbook|.

The Global Civil Society programme is undertaken in partnership with the Centre for Civil Society at LSE and the Center for Civil Society at UCLA, under the direction of Helmut Anheier, who is responsible for much of the mapping exercise, the methodology chapters of the yearbook, and some important infrastructure case studies on forms of organisation and on philanthropy.

In addition, we are developing global partnerships; we co-operated with the University of Witwaterstrand on the AIDS/HIV project and the University of Delhi for our work on global civil society and democracy and on some of the conceptual issues relating to civil society. Most importantly, the Political Science Department of the University of Cairo is producing an Arabic edition of the Global Civil Society Yearbook, with a combination of translated chapters and especially commissioned chapters by Arabic scholars. This relationship is proving extremely valuable in developing joint research on such issues as democratisation in the Middle East or theories of violence and civil society.


LSE Global Governance offers a graduate course and a summer school on Global Civil Society. With our courses we try to introduce students with both big ideas and theories as well as concrete developments associated with 'globalisation from below.' See our teaching page| for further information.