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Planetary Politics: Reviving the Spirit of the Concept “Global Civil Society”

A book chapter by Mary Kaldor and Sabine Selchow | 2022


Kaldor, Mary and Sabine Selchow (2022) Planetary Politics: Reviving the Spirit of the Concept “Global Civil Society”. In Civil Society: Concepts, Challenges, Contexts: Essays in Honor of Helmut K. Anheier (pp. 189-204). Cham: Springer International Publishing.


In this chapter, we engage with the concept “global civil society.” The concept played an important role in the symbolic construction of social reality after the end of the Cold War. It represented a critique of conventional state-centric perceptions of politics by focusing on the significance of nonparty politics and activism across borders; the study of global civil society was viewed as a way to supplant the study of international relations that refers to relations between states. It intervened into the discussion of the relationship between the state, society, individual, and market, and it represented a contribution to the globalization discourse by arguing that globalization is more than economic integration and also more than a structural process that has come over us. Despite all its discursive achievements, we argue that the concept failed in one respect: it did not manage to push knowledge production beyond methodological nationalism. What used to constitute the concept’s disruptive potential, namely, its conceptual enmeshment with the idea globalization, captured in the adjective global, eventually tamed it. Our chapter aims to revive the spirit of the concept “global civil society” by introducing a concept that takes up and pushes forward this unachieved goal: “planetary politics.”


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