The Global Civil Society programme at LSE was established in 1999 and has been funded by the MacArthur, Rockefeller, Rockefeller Brothers, Ford and Open Society Foundations. The aim is to understand the process of 'globalisation from below', the role that individuals and groups play in reshaping, reimagining, and reacting to the process that has come to be known as globalisation. The programme at LSE has established itself, largely through its flagship publication, the Global Civil Society Yearbook which has now had ten editions.
We use the term Global Civil Society as an analytical frame for investigating what might be described as subterranean, informal, non-party, or sub politics and the way in which this type of politics spills over borders.
Research undertaken in the Global Civil Society programme has included:
a major conceptual investigation into its meaning, drawing on the classical thinkers of civil society in the western tradition and other cultures and relating the engagement with past thinkers to contemporary realities;
a focus on the content of the major debates about global issues such as humanitarian intervention, the International criminal Court, the spread of disease such as HIV/AIDs. climate change, anti-capitalism and poverty, elucidating the various positions and identifying actors, targets and spaces, involved in the debates;
an empirical investigation of the infrastructure of global civil society including case studies of particular movements (such as the social forums and environmental movements) as well as analysis of spaces (internet, media, global summits), and the methods and funding of global civil society actors;
an ambitious effort to find ways of giving substance to the concept of global civil society through measurement. This has included the collection of relevant statistics (the records data base) as well as experimentation with a range of methods including GIS mapping, index construction or the use of Internet based tools. Every yearbook has included a methodological chapter.
Global Civil Society Knowledgebase
With support from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), we have established the Global Civil Society Knowledgebase, an online database that enables users to access our output in individualised ways.
Subterranean Politics in Europe
Since 2011, when a series of ‘new’ protests and political initiatives bubbled up across the continent, the unit has been researching 'Subterranean Politics in Europe'. We use the term 'subterranean politics' to describe emerging forms of protest and debate; the term is close to our interpretation of civil society not as NGOs but as a medium through which individuals challenge, resist, reconceptualise, and/or reconstruct the centres of economic and political authority. The aim of the first stage of this project was to map the debate about the future of Europe, elucidate the emerging political dynamics and to identify key nodal points where change is possible. Our initial report was published in 2012 and is available here; a book on the project was published by Palgrave Macmillan.
During the second phase of our research, we are focusing on one of the primary findings of that report: namely, that there is a fundamental mismatch between the portrayal of the crisis in Europe by policy makers and in the mainstream media and the concerns of the groups and individuals engaged in subterranean politics. In collaboration with the LSE Euro Crisis in the Press team and with the contributions of academics from across Europe, we are examining the narratives of the crisis that dominate the so-called ‘public discourse’ across Europe, attempting to highlight key features of this mismatch. Both phases of this project have been carried out with the support of the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE).