NGOs as Agents of Global Justice: Cosmopolitan Activism for Political Realists

Ethics and International Affairs 36 (3):305-320 (2022)
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Several decades of scholarship on international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have established their important role in leading cosmopolitan political projects framed around moral ideals of global justice. But contemporary legitimacy crises in international liberalism call for a reexamination of NGOs’ global justice activism, considering how they should navigate the real-world moral contestations and shifting power dynamics that can impede their pursuit of justice. Recent work by deliberative-democratic theorists has argued that NGOs can help resolve disputes about global justice norms by facilitating legitimate communicative exchanges among the diverse political voices of subjected global communities on the correct interpretation and implementation of global justice norms. In response, this essay argues for an expanded account of the political roles of NGOs in global justice activism, which reflects greater sensitivity to the multifaceted political dynamics through which power in real-world global politics is constituted and contested. It is shown that in some NGOs’ real-world operational contexts, structural power imbalances and social division or volatility can undercut the operation of the ideal deliberative processes prescribed by democratic theory—calling for further attention to work focused on mitigating power imbalances, building solidarity, and organizing power in parallel or as a precursor to deliberative-democratic processes.



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Bad Civil Society.Simone Chambers & Jeffrey Kopstein - 2001 - Political Theory 29 (6):837-865.
After Liberal Hegemony: The Advent of a Multiplex World Order.Amitav Acharya - 2017 - Ethics and International Affairs 31 (3):271-285.

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