'Global civil society' and hegemonic global governance: a Gramscian analysis of the NGO campaigns to ban landmines and cluster munitions
O'Dwyer, Diana (2014) 'Global civil society' and hegemonic global governance: a Gramscian analysis of the NGO campaigns to ban landmines and cluster munitions. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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This thesis uses a historical materialist Gramscian framework to develop an alternative, critical analysis of two post-Cold War international arms control campaigns by non-governmental organisations (NGO) – the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in the early to mid-1990s and the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) a decade later. Dominant liberal and liberal-constructivist narratives portray the campaigns as indicative of a broader ‘power shift’ in the international system towards traditionally less influential actors, including NGOs as representatives of an emerging ‘global’ or ‘transnational’ civil society, small and middle power states, and intergovernmental organisations (IGOs). This is seen to have arisen from the decreased polarisation of the international system since the end of the Cold War and the globalisation of the information revolution, which are said to have enhanced the salience of soft or communicative power and contributed to an emergent, more multi-actor and more democratic system of global governance networks in which NGOs, small and middle powers and IGOs can increase their influence by working in ‘partnership’ – yet all concerned maintain their fundamental autonomy and independence.
By contrast, drawing on Gramsci’s understanding of civil and political society as integral components of capitalist states that are dominated by elite interests and interact in the reproduction of capitalist hegemony, this thesis shows how both campaigns were driven by large, professionalised Western NGOs despite their ‘global civil society’ appearance; depended on likeminded sections of the Western donor community of Western governments, IGOs and private foundations for support; and ultimately exerted international influence through reconstructing the legitimacy of existing Western- dominated international military and economic power structures on an alternative ‘humanitarian’, more pluralistic, and ostensibly more democratic basis. This reflected the normally hegemonic, non- autonomous role of civil society from a Gramscian perspective in generating consent to states’ monopoly of force and the class interests this protects, but also the neoliberal restructuring of states since the 1980s towards privatisation and outsourcing of governance functions to NGOs, including at the international level. This has increased the resources available to NGOs and their international influence, while simultaneously reducing their autonomy from the Western donor community and integrating them more tightly into international governance structures and the increasingly transnationalised interests of Western states.
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