. 2
( 8)


Destler (ed.), Maryland/Tsukubu Papers on US“Japan Relations (College Park, MD,
1996), p. 57.
51 Toshihiro Menju and Takaka Aoki, ˜The Evolution of Japanese NGOs in the Asia
Paci¬c Context™, in Tadashi Yamamoto (ed.), Emerging Civil Society in the Asia Paci¬c
Community: Nongovernmental Underpinnings of the Emerging Asia Paci¬c Regional Com-
munity (Singapore and Tokyo, 1995), pp. 143“6, and Tadashi Yamamoto, ˜Emergence
of Japan™s Civil Society and Its Future Challenges™, in Tadashi Yamamoto (ed.), Deciding
the Public Good: Governance and Civil Society in Japan (Tokyo, 1999), pp. 99“103.
26 Global Civil Society?

European towns
This point about the dynamic osmosis between the ˜domestic™ and ˜global™
dimensions of civil societies must be taken into account when trying to
understand the genealogy of civil societies, for instance in the European
region. In practice, the development of modern civil societies within the
framework of European states and empires contained from the outset
the seeds of their own trans-nationalisation and interpenetration. This
trend can be seen even in the most local civil societies, whose roots are
partly traceable to the revival of towns in Europe during the eleventh
century. The urban revival not only nurtured long-distance trade that
linked the Europes of the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Baltic; it
also marked the beginning of the continent™s rise to world eminence “
and its contribution to the laying of the foundations of a global civil
society.52 Although the distribution of these European towns “ unusual
clumps of people engaged in many different tasks, living in houses close
together, often joined wall to wall “ was highly uneven, with the weakest
patterns of urbanisation in Russia and the strongest in Holland, they
were typically linked to each other in networks, or archipelagos stretching
across vast distances. Wherever these urban archipelagos thrived, they
functioned like magnets that attracted strangers fascinated by their well-
lit complexity, their real or imagined freedom, or their higher wages.
Towns like Bruges, Genoa, Nuremberg and London resembled electric
transformers. They constantly recharged life by adding not only motion
but also tension to its elements. Town-dwellers seemed to be perpetually
on the move. They travelled regularly to and fro among built-up areas and
regularly spent only part of their lives there: during harvest-times, for in-
stance, artisans and others typically abandoned their trades and houses
for work in ¬elds elsewhere. The constant rumble of wheeled carriages,
the weekly or daily markets and the numerous trades added to the sense of
motion across distance: town-dwellers encountered water-carriers, ¬‚oor
polishers, sawyers, porters and chair-carriers, pedlars, rabbit-skin mer-
chants, wigmakers, barbers, cobblers and domestic servants. All these
occupations in turn rubbed shoulders with members of the better sort:
merchants, some of them very rich, masters, mercenaries, engineers,
ships™ captains, doctors, professors, painters and architects, all of whom
knew what it meant to travel through time and space.
The winding, twisting layout of towns added to their appearance of
geographic and social dynamism. Medieval Europe was one of only two
52 The following section draws upon the documents assembled in John H. Mundy and Peter
Riesenberg, The Medieval Town (Princeton, 1858) and Fernand Braudel, Civilization and
Capitalism. 15th“18th Century, vol. 1 (London, 1981), chapter 8.
Unfamiliar words 27

civilisations “ the other was Islam “ that fashioned large towns with an
irregular maze of streets. What was different about the medieval and
early modern European towns was their unparalleled freedom from the
political authorities of the emerging territorial states. Local merchants,
traders, craft guilds, manufacturers and bankers formed the backbone
of a long-distance money economy endowed with the power to dictate
the terms and conditions on which governments ruled. Seen in this way,
urban markets were the cuckoo™s egg laid in the little nests of the medieval
towns. These nests were woven from various non-governmental institu-
tions, which together with the markets helped to nurture something brand
new: unbounded social space within which the absolutist state could be
checked, criticised and generally held at arm™s length from citizens.

Universal history
The birth of civil societies in this sense did not simply lay the foundations
for ˜strongly connected national civil societies living in a system of many
states™.53 Historically speaking, the institutions of civil society were never
exclusively ˜national™ or constituted by their exclusive relationship to the
nation-state. All hitherto-existing civil societies have been linked by some
common threads, which is why global civil society has to be thought of as
more than the simple sum of territorially based and de¬ned civil societies.
It rather comprises local, regional, state-ordered and supranational civil
society institutions that are melded together in complex chains of inter-
dependence. The birth of local civil societies heralded the dawn of what
has been called universal history marked by the constant reciprocal inter-
action between local and far-distant events.54 The neologism, global civil
society, belatedly names this old tendency of local and regional civil soci-
eties to link up and to penetrate regions of the earth that had previously
not known the ethics and structures of civil society in the modern Eu-
ropean sense. But the neologism points as well to current developments
that speed up the growth, and greatly ˜thicken™, the networks of transna-
tional, non-governmental activities. Universal history so understood is
not the clich´ d story of the one-way spreading of a bundle of ˜Western™
ideals to the rest of the world, whose contribution is a non-history of
non-contributions, or what Mamdani has called a ˜history of absences™.55

53 M. J. Peterson, ˜Transnational Activity, International Society and World Politics™,
Millennium, 21:3 (1992), p. 388.
54 Raymond Aron, ˜The Dawn of Universal History™, in Miriam Conant (ed.), Politics and
History. Selected Essays by Raymond Aron (New York and London, 1978), pp. 212“33.
55 Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late
Colonialism (Princeton, 1996).
28 Global Civil Society?

It is universal in a more complex and messier sense: the local and the
beyond are interrelated recursively, through power-ridden processes of
entangled pasts and presents. So, for instance, it can be said that the
eighteenth-century vision of cosmopolitanism defended by Vattel, Kant
and others was a child of local civil societies; and that that cosmopoli-
tanism was the privilege of those whose lives were already anchored in
local civil societies. This does not mean or imply that their vision of cos-
mopolitanism was superior. Seen from the perspective of universal his-
tory, it was just one among many other modernities. The other-regarding,
outward-looking openness of these local civil societies “ their glimpse of
themselves as part of a wider, complex world, their capacity to see space
and time not as part of the bare bones of the world, but as construc-
tions “ constantly tempted them to engage and transform that world.
Their stocks of social skills, their capacities for commercial enterprise,
technical innovation, freedom of communication, for learning languages
and saving souls in independently minded churches: all these qualities
fed the developing worldliness and laid the foundations for their later
Think for a moment of the example of the colonising process triggered
by the British Empire, which at its height governed nearly one-third of
the world™s population.56 Unlike the Spanish colonies, which were the
product of a species of absolute monarchy that charged into the world
under the ¬‚ags of evangelisation and military glory, the British Empire was
driven not only by maritime-backed colonial power, but also non-state
initiatives based at home. These were either for pro¬t, as in the Virginia
Company and the East India Company, which combined the capital of
wealthy magnates with the navigational skills of freebooting maritime
adventurers to form a joint-stock organisation that not only conquered
India and laid the foundations of the Raj, but also provided the means
by which people, commodities, animals, plants and ideas circulated to
and from the east. The British Empire also spawned non-state initiatives
driven by religious ends, evident in extensive Christian missionary activity
and the emigration of dissenters: Puritans to New England, Quakers to
Pennsylvania, Methodists to Australia and Presbyterians to Canada.
These non-state or civil initiatives did not simply have one-way effects
56 Two phases of the expansion of Europe are commonly distinguished. The ¬rst encom-
passes the European conquest of the Americas; it stretches from Columbus™ ¬rst voyage
in 1492 to the ¬nal defeat of the Spanish armies in South America during the 1830s.
During the second phase, the net of European power was cast over Asia, Africa and
the Paci¬c; it began in the 1730s, but crystallised only after the American Revolution,
which signalled the end of European dominance in the Atlantic; see Anthony Pagden,
Lords of All the World. Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c. 1500“c.1800
(New Haven and London, 1995).
Unfamiliar words 29

upon the colonised; they rather established complex social and economic
chains of interdependence that contained a large number of components
that interacted simultaneously with a rich variety of effects that soon
began to be felt in all four corners of the earth. Empire promoted inde-
pendence at a distance; various factors of socio-economic life, previously
unrelated, became involved with one another.

Conceptual imperialism?
With this example of empire, a critic of the idea of a global civil soci-
ety might well at this point lodge the objection that the language of civil
society speaks with a Western accent. The development of long-distance
social relations, the critic might observe, certainly had the effect of spread-
ing the norms and institutions that would later be named civil society in
the modern sense.57 Yet a cursory glance at the historical record shows
that this diffusion of the institutions and language of civil society every-
where encountered resistance “ sometimes (as in parts of the East African
mainland, during the Christian missions of the 1840s58 ) armed hostility,
followed by a ¬ght to the death. It is therefore obvious, or so our critic
might conclude, that ˜civil society™ is not just a geographically speci¬c
concept with pseudo-universal pretensions; it also has a strong elective
af¬nity with ˜the West™, and even potentially plays the role of an agent of
Western power and in¬‚uence in the world.
Might talk of a global civil society indeed be a wooden horse of
European domination? Are there indeed good reasons ˜to send back the
concept of civil society to where . . . it properly belongs “ the provincial-
ism of European social philosophy™?59 Given the prima facie evidence,
the suspicion that the language of civil society is mixed up in the nasty
businesses of hubris and blood has to be taken seriously, and certainly
any contemporary use of the phrase needs to be highly sensitive to what
is conceptually and politically at stake here. At a minimum “ there are
many other controversial issues, discussed later in this book, such as the
dif¬culties facing practical efforts to develop the idea of civil society as a

57 The mid-eighteenth-century transition from classical European usages of societas civilis (a
well-governed political community) to the modern sense of civil society as legally secured
spaces of non-violent social interaction is examined in my ˜Despotism and Democracy:
The Origins and Development of the Distinction Between Civil Society and the State
1750“1850™, in John Keane (ed.), Civil Society and the State: New European Perspectives
(London and New York, 1988 [reprinted 1998]), pp. 35“72.
58 Philip D. Curtin, The World and the West. The European Challenge and the Overseas Response
in the Age of Empire (Cambridge and New York, 2000), chapter 7.
59 Partha Chatterjee, ˜A Response to Taylor™s “Modes of Civil Society” ™, Public Culture 3:1
(Fall 1990), p. 120.
30 Global Civil Society?

global norm “ it should be remembered that the phrase global civil society
has so far been used in this discussion as an ideal-type, for heuristic pur-
poses. This means (as Max Weber ¬rst pointed out60 ) that it does not aim
initially to manipulate or to dominate others, but rather seeks to name and
to describe and to clarify and interpret the world, either past or present.
In other words, it seeks to help us better understand the world in all its
complexity by simplifying it, intellectually speaking. Whether and how
well it manages to perform this task can be decided only by bringing it to
bear on the empirical ˜reality™, whose dynamics it seeks to interpret and
to explain. The Western origins of the concept and the possibility that it
imposes alien values are thus at this stage irrelevant considerations. What
is rather at stake is whether and how well the research questions and em-
pirical ¬ndings elucidated by the concept of global civil society prove to
be illuminating for others elsewhere in the world.
Illumination here presupposes and requires clean hands. For one of the
bitter truths lurking within the contemporary popularity of the language
of civil society is the fact that European talk of civil society originally
presupposed and required the disempowerment or outright crushing of
others elsewhere in the world. Those who today want to universalise this
language, to utilise it for descriptive interpretations throughout the world,
must face up to this fact. They must acknowledge candidly “ in effect,
ask others forgiveness for the bad consequences of “ some embarrassing
historical facts.
The stench of violence that once surrounded talk of ˜civilised society™,
˜civilisation™ and ˜civility™ is prime among these facts. The foundations
of civil societies have often been soaked in blood. ˜Civilised™ worldliness
typically developed hand in hand with profoundly ˜uncivil™ or barbaric
forms of domination. Worldly civil societies could nowhere have devel-
oped or survived without the superior naval power, deep-rooted pugnacity
and comparative immunity to disease that had earlier facilitated the rise
of the West, from around 1500 onwards, often in violent, uncivilised
form. Among its landmarks, which appear barbaric by today™s standards
of civility, are the ruthless aggression of Almeida and Albuquerque in the
Indian Ocean, the destruction of the Amerindian civilisations of Peru and
Mexico, and the generalised hostility towards peoples as diverse as
Muslim traders in the Mediterranean basin and aboriginal hunters and
gatherers in such countries as Australia and Canada.61

60 Max Weber, ˜ “Objectivity” in Social Science and Social Policy™, in Edward A. Shils and
Henry A. Finch (eds.), The Methodology of the Social Sciences (New York, 1949), p. 90.
61 William H. McNeill, The Rise of the West. A History of the Human Community (Chicago
and London, 1963), chapter 11.
Unfamiliar words 31

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, when the modern language
of civil society was still young, those who favoured its institutions and
norms were often prepared to wield violence against its enemies, both
at home and abroad. Supposing that they were on the side of God, or
the angels, they were prepared to traverse unknown frontiers into strange
lands, full sail or mounted on horseback, armed with swords, pistols and
cannon. They were prepared to stand by the distinction between the
˜non-torturable™ and ˜torturable™ classes (Graham Greene). Napoleon™s
well-known address to his troops just before setting off to conquer Egypt “
˜Soldiers™, he shouted, ˜you are undertaking a conquest with incalculable
consequences for civilisation™ “ was the battle-cry of civil society on the
march. The willingness of British colonisers to heap vast quantities of
violence onto the bodies of the aboriginal occupants of the lands that
they wanted to seize also stands in this tradition.
As well, outer-lying areas of the British Empire were laboratories in
which ˜civilising™ measures were tested on the colonisers themselves.
Norfolk Island, originally occupied by British settlers from 1788 to 1814
and today famous for its peaceful and austere beauty, counts as an exam-
ple. During the second quarter of the nineteenth century, it was trans-
formed by the British authorities into a place of extreme punishment for
male convicts who had re-offended in Van Diemen™s Land or New South
Wales. In the name of a ˜civilised society™, they were forced to labour
from dawn to dusk, and to eat like animals without utensils. At the small-
est hints of disobedience, they were fed only bread and water. Frequent
lashings “ 500 at a time “ were commonplace; stubborn offenders were
locked in cells where they could neither lie nor stand; and since death
was naturally a merciful release from this island hell, prisoners commonly
drew lots to decide who would kill whom “ and so to decide who could
leave the island for Sydney, where murder charges were heard.62

Big violence, little violence
Insofar as the civilising mission of the friends of civil society assumed such
forms, it should come as no surprise that many early modern champions
of civil society scorned others for their alleged inability to develop its in-
stitutions. This is another historical fact to be grasped by those who today
speak positively of global civil society: in early modern usages, ˜civil soci-
ety™ was typically contrasted with ˜the Asiatic™ region, in which, or so it was
said, civil societies had manifestly failed to appear. ˜Among the Hindus,

62 See the various pieces of documented evidence in Suzanne Rickard (ed.), George
Barrington™s Voyage to Botany Bay (Leicester, 2001).
32 Global Civil Society?

according to the Asiatic model™, wrote James Mill with India in mind, ˜the
government was monarchical, and, with the usual exception of religion
and its ministers, absolute. No idea of any system of rule, different from
the will of a single person, appears to have entered the minds of them or
their legislators.™63 Marx and Engels, who were otherwise no friends of
modern civil society (b¨ rgerliche Gesellschaft), similarly observed that in
the East the ˜¬rst basic condition of bourgeois acquisition is lacking: the
security of the person and the property of the trader™.64 And along parallel
lines, Tocqueville noted that whereas in America the spirit of Christianity
enabled the growth of a civil society and democratic institutions, the
Muslim faith and manners had heaped materialism and fatalism onto its
believers. The chronic decadence of Islam meant that ˜the great violence
of conquest™ initially carried out by Europeans in countries like Algeria
would need to be supplemented by ˜smaller violences™. He considered
that ˜there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that
of Mohammed™, and he was sure that it was ˜the principal cause of the
decadence so visible today in the Muslim world™. Civil society was impos-
sible in Muslim societies. Their paci¬cation required a two-tier political
order: a ruling group based on the principles of Christian civilisation, and
a ruled group of natives who would continue to live by the laws of the
Qur™¯ n.65
Friends of global civil society must today be encouraged to ask tough
questions of such views. They would be wise to cultivate an allergic reac-
tion to such claims, not only because in practice (in the extreme) they can
have murderous consequences, but also because the early modern pic-
ture of the Muslim world that pre-existed Western colonisation typically
blanked out its plurality of social institutions that had all the qualities “
but not the name “ of a certain religious form of civil society.66 Here the
theory of global civil society encounters a semantic problem: the name
(koinonia politike; societas civilis; civil society) was of course a European
invention, but the substance of civil association protected by law was

63 James Mill, The History of British India (London, 1817), vol. 1, p. 122.
64 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, ˜The Foreign Policy of Russian Czarism™, in The Russian
Menace in Europe (London, 1953), p. 40.
65 See the letter to Gobineau in Alexis de Tocqueville, Oeuvres compl`tes, ed. J. P. Mayer
(Paris, 1951“), vol. 9, p. 69; the unpublished letter to Lamorici` re (5 April 1846), cited
in Andr´ Jardin, Tocqueville: A Biography (New York, 1988), p. 318; and Pierre Michel,
˜D´ mocratie et Barbarie™, in Un mythe romantique, les Barbares, 1789“1848 (Lyons, 1981),
pp. 267“92. More generally, see the important essay of Bryan S. Turner, ˜Orientalism
and the Problem of Civil Society in Islam™, in Asaf Hussain et al. (eds.), Orientalism,
Islam and Islamists (Brattleboro, VT, 1984), pp. 23“42.
66 The literature on this topic is vast, but see Ira M. Lapidus, History of Islamic Societies
(Cambridge, 1988) and ˜Muslim Cities and Islamic Societies™, in Ira M. Lapidus (ed.),
Middle Eastern Cities: A Symposium on Ancient Islamic and Contemporary Middle Eastern
Urbanism (Berkeley, 1969), pp. 47“74.
Unfamiliar words 33

common throughout the world of Muslim societies before European con-
quest. This point was noted by quite a few eighteenth-century European
observers with clear eyes and an open mind. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (who
admittedly favoured undivided, small republics) even complained that
Muslims too strictly distinguished between the theological and political
systems. ˜Mahomet held very sane views, and linked his political system
well together; and, as long as the form of his government continued under
the caliphs who succeeded him, that government was indeed one, and so
far good™, he wrote. ˜But the Arabs™, he added, ˜having grown prosperous,
lettered, civilized, slack, and cowardly, were conquered by barbarians: the
division between the two [theological and political] powers began again;
and, although it is less apparent among the Mahometans than among the
Christians, it none the less exists, especially in the sect of Ali, and there
are States, such as Persia, where it is continually making itself felt™.67
Rousseau™s observation stood the charge of Caesaro-papism against the
Islamic world on its head. It suggested, and more recent observers have
agreed, that the East “ a slothful term that projects ignorance onto the
profound complexity of the vast geographic and cultural area to which
it refers “ was not a sewer of slavishness, a world without private prop-
erty ruled by Great Monarchs who treated their subjects as if they were
mere households of women, children and slaves. The fragmentary evi-
dence that survives instead suggests that these early civil societies most
probably were pioneers in the ¬eld of contract law. These societies, for
instance, were dotted with cities that functioned as cosmopolitan traf¬c
nodes, entrepots and facilitators of a vast proto-world system.68 These
societies also had the longest recorded history of private and civil law
covering the protection of trade and property, whose predominant form
was that of partnership.69 These partnerships were not based on the fa-
miliar European employer“employee relation (which was widely regarded
as a form of slavery) and they certainly did not give rise to class differ-
ences between owners and non-owners of property; property, production
and trade were rather embedded in households, neighbourhood or con-
fessional groupings, in which business partners, women and men alike,
considered each other as ˜owners™, regardless of whether they contributed
capital or labour to the partnership. Social ties were typically multiple,
¬‚uid, and dynamic “ ˜fuzzy™ rather than monolithic, enumerated, and
67 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, in The Social Contract and Discourses (New
York, 1913), book 4, chapter 8, p. 109.
68 J. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System AD 1250“1350
(Cambridge, 1989).
69 Mikhail Rostovtzeff, Caravan Cities (Oxford, 1932), pp. 8“9; Solomon Goitein, ˜Com-
mercial and Family Partnerships in the Countries of Medieval Islam™, Islamic Studies
3 (1964), pp. 315“37, and his Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (Leiden, 1966),
pp. 270“8.
34 Global Civil Society?

homogeneous, like many of the later forms of colonial bonds.70 The
effect, among others, was to block the emergence of large-scale trad-
ing and manufacturing ¬rms of the kind that ¬rst developed in Britain,
France and the Netherlands, and the rise of absolutist forms of political
rule as well. Seen in this way, the ˜Oriental™ despotic state much anal-
ysed and feared by European writers was an effect of foreign conquest
and Western colonisation. Its ˜grande violence™ (de Tocqueville) typically
succeeded because the colonisers had at their disposal military and com-
munications resources and long experience of the arts of absolutist rule.
The effect, in most cases, was to destroy or badly maim the complex
of pre-existing social institutions and business partnerships, so creating
vacuums that could be ¬lled up by the etatiste institutions of the colonial
powers and their comprador rulers (shahs, emirs, kings).71 The new
Turkey under Kemalist rule (1923“38) is a clear case in point: the na-
tionalist state-building led by Mustafa Kemal (later crowned with the
name of Ataturk, or ˜Father of the Turks™) eliminated the entire system
of religious schools, with the mekteps and medreses compulsorily reorgan-
ised under the direction of the Ministry of Education. Secular codes of
law based on Italian, Swiss and German precedents were rigorously ap-
plied in the ¬elds of civil, criminal and commercial law. Materials printed
in the Arabic and Persian languages were banned, and Turkish transla-
tions of the Qur™¯ n, anathema to orthodox Muslims, were encouraged
and recited publicly. Religious titles and their use were abolished, and
dervish lodges (tekke) and cells (zaviye) were closed. Western clothing
was of¬cially encouraged, and Sunday, rather than the Muslim Friday
holiday, was declared the of¬cial day of rest. The old system of locating
places in relation to public squares and places was countered by laws
specifying that buildings and houses had to be numbered and all streets
named, according to the European custom. The ¬rst Turkish beauty con-
tests were staged; alcohol was legalised for Muslims; and civil marriages
for all became compulsory. And, as if to crown all these ˜secular™ mea-
sures backed by threats of military violence from above, regal statues and
majestic paintings of Kemal were placed in public places “ so violating
the old Muslim tradition of opposition to the in¬‚ated representation and
dei¬cation of living things.72

70 Sudipta Kaviraj, ˜The Imaginary Institution of India™, in Partha Chatterjee and
Gyanendra Pandey (eds.), Subaltern Studies, VII (New Delhi, 1992), pp. 20“6.
71 See Hannah Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq
(Princeton, 1978); the claim that theories of oriental despotism sprang up as a foil for
classical republicanism is well defended in Patricia Springborg, Western Republicanism
and the Oriental Prince (Cambridge, 1992).
72 See, for instance, Stanford J. Shaw and Ezel Kural Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire
and Modern Turkey, vol. 2 (Cambridge and London, 1977), esp. chapter 6; Andrew
Davison, Secularism and Revivalism in Turkey (New Haven and London, 1998).
Unfamiliar words 35

A ¬nal introductory thought: it is signi¬cant, and profoundly ironical, that
descriptive usages of the concept of global civil society have now spread
to every continent of the globe. The birth and maturation of global civil
society has been riddled with many ironies. We shall see later that its civil
institutions can even be understood and defended as the condition of a
healthy, publicly shared sense of irony, but for the moment here is among
the strangest ironies of all: an originally European way of life, some of
whose members set out brutally to colonise the world in the name of
a civil society, helped lay the foundations for its own universal appeal
and, with that, strengthened civil resistance to colonising forms of power
and prejudice originally traceable to the European region. The revolts
of the colonised in the name of a ˜civilised society™ against British impe-
rial power in the eighteenth-century American colonies was the ¬rst-ever
case in point of this unintended consequence. There have subsequently
been many more and recent instances of these ironic, failed attempts to
crush the willpower of a (potentially) self-governing civil society through
armed state or imperial power that once prided itself on its own ˜civilis-
ing mission™. Examples range from the gentle and prolonged resistance
to imperial power by locally formed civil societies (as in Australia and
New Zealand) to the volcanic upheavals against colonial and post-colonial
power in contexts otherwise as different as Haiti, India, South Africa and
One important effect of such unintended developments is observable:
the contemporary ˜emigration™ of the language of civil society, from its
original birthplace in Europe to all four corners of the earth.73 In recent
years, the family of terms ˜civil society™ and ˜global civil society™ have
proved to be good travellers. After making a ¬rst appearance in Japan
and then developing vigorously in the European region, including its
eastern fringes “ the New York Times has reported that civil society is
˜almost a mantra in Russian politics these days™74 “ the terms spread to the
United States and Canada, and throughout central and South America.
They have appeared as well throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania,
and all regions of Asia and the Muslim world.75 This globalisation of the
concept of civil society is one aspect of the emergent global civil society,
73 See my Civil Society and the State: Old Images and New Visions, esp. pp. 32 ff.
74 New York Times, June 22, 2000.
75 The literature is vast and still growing rapidly. Among the best-known contributions
are Sudipta Kaviraj and Sunil Khilnani (eds.), Civil Society: History and Possibilities
(Cambridge and New York, 2001); Richard Augustus Norton (ed.), Civil Society in the
Middle East, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1995); Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn (eds.), Civil Society:
Challenging Western Models (New York, 1996); Tadashi Yamamoto (ed.) Emerging Civil
Society in the Asia Paci¬c Community: Nongovernmental Underpinnings of the Emerging Asia
36 Global Civil Society?

for it shows how civil society ideas and languages and institutions are
spreading beyond their place of origin into new contexts, where they are
in turn conceptualised or re-conceptualised in local contexts, from where
the revisions, which are sometimes cast in very different terms, may and
often do feed back into the original donor contexts.76 Not only is talk of
civil society now heard world-wide within circles of journalists, lawyers
and academics. NGOs, business people, professionals, diplomats and
politicians of various persuasions also like to speak the same language.
Its popularity may well convince future historians to look back on this
globalisation of the term and to judge that its global extension, which is
without precedent, signalled the ¬rst step in the long-term emergence of
common frameworks of social meaning against the tyranny of distance
and the constrictions of state boundaries. Tomorrow™s historians may well
conclude that the spreading talk of civil society was not just talk. They
may highlight the fact that something new was born in the world “ the
unprecedented (if unevenly distributed) growth of the sense within NGOs
and publics at large that civilians live in one world, and that they have
obligations to other civilians living beyond their borders, simply because
they are civilians.
Proof positive of this trend is the reception by scholars and activists
alike of the idea and ideal of civil society in the Indian sub-continent.
In recent years, this reception has been driven by renewed interest in in-
digenous traditions of civility, widespread disappointment with the post-
colonial state, market reforms, and the defence of civil and political rights
against religious nationalism and authoritarian state policies. Three dif-
ferent versions of the case for civil society seem to predominate. The
traditionalist approach criticises state violence and calls for ˜humane gov-
ernance™ based upon strengthened indigenous traditions. The project of
strengthening a civil society that is ˜rooted in diversity yet cohering and
holding together™ must draw upon ˜surviving traditions of togetherness,
mutuality and resolution of differences and con¬‚ict™.77 Others reject this
traditionalist approach as nostalgia for traditions that harbour inequality
and individual unfreedom “ and produce instability within modern insti-
tutions. These critics prefer instead to walk the path originally trodden
by Paine and Tocqueville, to reach a different understanding of civil so-
ciety as a distinctively modern sphere of voluntary associations, some of

Paci¬c Regional Community (Singapore and Tokyo, 1995); John L. and Jean Comaroff
(eds.), Civil Society and the Political Imagination in Africa: Critical Perspectives (Chicago
and London, 1999); and John Keane (ed.), Civil Society and the State: New European
76 Makoto Iokibe, ˜Japan™s Civil Society: An Historical Overview™, in Tadashi Yamamoto
(ed.), Deciding the Public Good: Governance and Civil Society in Japan (Tokyo, 1999).
77 Rajni Kothari, State Against Democracy: In Search of Humane Governance (Delhi, 1988).
Unfamiliar words 37

them of colonial origin, that stand as buffer zones between the individual
and governmental institutions. Constitutional democracy in India is seen
to require a modern civil society: a plurality of secular and inclusive insti-
tutions that enjoy considerable autonomy from state power.78
Some who are otherwise sympathetic to this modernist approach doubt
its implied teleology: they point out that such ˜civil“social™ institutions
are in short supply, that they are con¬ned to well-to-do strata, and that
this lack of modern civil associations in a society dominated by caste and
religious ties is the key indicator of the post-colonial condition.79 Still
others “ the anthropological approach “ question this interpretation of
post-colonialism. They seek to cut through the pre-colonial/post-colonial
dualism by pointing to the ways in which castes and religious communi-
ties deserve to be included in any descriptive“analytical account of civil
society. Randeria, for instance, denies that castes and religious com-
munities are (or were ever) describable as traditional ˜organic bonds
of kinship™, as standard accounts of the tradition/modernity divide have
supposed.80 She points out, persuasively, that the social groupings within
pre-colonial India, castes included, were typically multiple, ¬‚exible and
¬‚uid, rather than rigid and exclusive in outlook. The Gujarat community
of Mole-Salam Garasia Rajputs, which until recently assigned a Hindu
and Muslim name to each one of its members, is an example of this dy-
namic heterogeneity, which evidently survived colonial conquest: in the
1911 census, nearly a quarter of a million Indians described themselves
as ˜Mohammedan Hindus™.81
Randeria acknowledges that colonial administration, which sought to
map and control Indian society, was responsible for the refashioning of
territorially de¬ned castes into enumerated communities through bu-
reaucratic de¬nition: for the purposes of census classi¬cation and count-
ing, employment in the colonial administration, and the allocation of
seats in representative bodies, colonial administrators twisted social iden-
tities like religion and caste (samaj, or society, in Gujarat) into political
78 Andr´ B´ teille, Civil Society and Its Institutions, delivered as the ¬rst Fulbright Memorial
Lecture (Calcutta, 1996), as well as his Society and Politics in India (London, 1991) and
˜The Con¬‚ict of Norms and Values in Contemporary Indian Society™, in Peter Berger
(ed.), The Limits of Social Cohesion: Con¬‚ict and Mediation in Plural Societies (Boulder,
Co. 1998), pp. 265“92.
79 Partha Chatterjee, ˜On Civil and Political Society in Post-Colonial Democracies™,
in Sudipta Kaviraj and Sunil Khilnani (eds.), Civil Society. History and Possibilities
(Cambridge, 2001), pp. 165“78.
80 Shalini Randeria, ˜Geteilte Geschichte und verwobene Moderne™, in Jorn Rusen et al.
¨ ¨
(eds), Zukunftsentw¨ rfe. Ideen f¨ r eine Kultur der Ver¨ nderung (Frankfurt am Main, 1999),
u u a
pp. 87“96, and ˜From Cohesion to Connectedness: Civil Society, Caste Solidarities and
Legal Pluralism in Post-Colonial India™, in Keane (ed.), Civil Society: Berlin Perspectives.
81 S. T. Lokhandwala, ˜Indian Islam: Composite Culture and Integration™, New Quest, 50
(1985), pp. 87“101.
38 Global Civil Society?

categories. Randeria also acknowledges that these bureaucratic classi¬ca-
tions had profound political and social effects, so that by the early decades
of the twentieth century, caste organisations and communal parties were
mobilising to de¬ne and protect their interests on an India-wide basis. Yet
she goes on to point out “ against politically loaded, nationalist claims on
behalf of a homogeneous Hindu majority “ that, despite their ascriptive
qualities, most lower castes, including the so-called ˜untouchable castes™
(scheduled castes, as the Indian constitution calls them), continue to be
largely self-governing local collectivities. They enjoy a measure of self-
conscious jurisdiction and authority over their members “ a power that
is often jealously guarded against state intrusions. Castes are far from
being kinship groups with unalterable customs and procedures. Their as-
semblies (panchayat), comprising all the adult members of a local caste
unit (paraganu), are sites of deliberations about rules and the contesta-
tion of norms that are vital for maintaining the patterns of solidarity and
belonging “ and for resisting unwanted state intervention in such matters
as the rules of marriage, divorce and re-marriage, the exchange of food
and care arrangements for children.
Randeria points out that the European language of civil society ¬rst
travelled to India during the nineteenth century. With the founding of
the colonial state, the civil sphere “ often not named as such82 “ took
the form of spaces of social life either untampered with by colonial rulers
or established through the resistance to their power by colonial subjects
themselves. Randeria shows that the subsequent debates about civil so-
ciety in India have come to interact with different European images of
civil society, so highlighting not only their travelling potential but also
the ways in which ˜foreign™ or ˜imported™ languages both resonate within
local contexts, and are often (heavily) refashioned as a result. They then
become subject to ˜re-export™, back to the context from which they orig-
inally came, in consequence of which the language of civil society is both
pluralised and globalised. The impressive cooperation between the coali-
tion called Narmada Bachao Andolan (formed in 1988) and INGOs like
Oxfam and The Environment Defense Fund in campaigns in support of

82 A dif¬cult but interesting and inescapable problem of interpretation arises here: the
possibility that some of the institutional practices of global civil society in various parts
of the world neither presently consider themselves participants within this society nor
use nor understand the language of civil society. Throughout this book, the problem is
treated as generously as possible, in that actors and institutions that more or less abide by
the rules of global civil society, outlined in this introduction, can legitimately be called by
that proper name. Just as we commonly distinguish between the terms in which people
describe themselves and how they are described by others, so global civil society is a
space containing many identities that go by other names “ including identities that smell
sweet despite the fact that they are not called roses.
Unfamiliar words 39

the right of people not to be displaced by dam construction in western
India illustrates what Randeria has in mind. The profound theoretical im-
plication of her point should not be missed: multiple and multi-dimensional
and entangled languages of civil society now contribute to the de¬nition of
the world of global civil society. Contrary to Gellner and Hall and others,
civil society is not a uniquely Western achievement.83 Its forms appeared
in a large number of different contexts “ even in the so-called ˜dark™ con-
tinent of Africa, with its pre-colonial institutions like the Tswana kgolta
and old traditions of ˜invisible governance™ articulated through local, so-
cially shared styles, aspirations and secrets of individuals and groups.84
Not only that: Western de¬nitions of civil society are not universal in any
simple sense. The plural understandings of civil society within the mod-
ern West “ the term itself now grates, since modern European de¬nitions
of civil society are much messier and more divided than that “ are to be
seen as one particular approach, and not as a universal language that is
thought to be synonymous with a world history that leads teleologically,
smugly, triumphantly, to the silencing or annihilation of other, ˜residual™
de¬nitions of social order.

83 Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty. Civil Society and Its Rivals (London, 1994); J. A.
Hall (ed.), Civil Society: Theory, History and Comparison (Cambridge, 1995).
84 See David Hecht and Maliqalim Simone, Invisible Governance: The Art of African Mi-
cropolitics (New York, 1994); Ali A. Mazrui, ˜Globalisation and the Future of Islamic
Civilisation™ (Centre for the Study of Democracy, London, June 2000); and John L. and
Jean Comaroff, ˜Postcolonial Politics and Discourses of Democracy in Southern Africa:
An Anthropological Re¬‚ection on African Political Modernities™, Journal of Anthropolog-
ical Research, 53:2 (1997), pp. 123“46.

Traditions: the call of God
Both the idea and the concrete dynamics of global civil society can be bet-
ter grasped by dwelling for a moment upon its historical origins. Intellec-
tual proponents and activist champions of the idea of a global civil society
have a bad habit of supposing that its institutions were born yesterday.
By disregarding traditions “ the gift of the dead to the living “ the fans
of global civil society fail to spot the deep roots of this globalising civil
society. These run deep and have an entangled and branched “ rhizoma-
tous “ quality about them. The social ties bound up with these traditions
that feed present-day global civil society can be clari¬ed by examining
two separate but overlapping examples “ taken from the worlds of Islam
and Europe, respectively. They are arbitrarily chosen, but each illustrates
two points that are of fundamental interest: that global civil society was
formed by the horizon-stretching effects of previous social formations;
and that these world-de¬ning effects made possible the ˜action and re-
action at a distance™ effects that are an intrinsic feature of global civil
Religious civilisations certainly developed world-views and world-
girdling institutions that feed the streams of social life that are today
global. Consider the new world religion of Islam, which was born in the
early seventh century AD, in a region of the Arabian desert blanketed with
crescent-shaped dunes and spotted with palm-fringed oases and teeming
market towns populated by wandering tribes of Arab pagans and Jewish
and Christian traders and travellers. Within a century of the Prophet™s
death (632 AD), the call of the muezzin from the minaret “ ˜There is
no god except God and Muhammed is the Apostle of God™ “ echoed in
communities as far a¬eld as Spain and China.1 The lands that curved
from Gibraltar around through North Africa and stretched eastwards to
the Middle East and Persia were typically seen by Muslim scholars and

1 Richard M. Eaton, Essays on Islam and Indian History (Oxford, 2001).

Catalysts 41

clerics as the gravitational centre of the human world. That perception is
evident in the world map prepared in 1154 AD by Muhammed al-Idrisi,
the Arab cartographer of the court of King Roger of Sicily: with south
at the top, it places the Arabian peninsula at the top centre, with the
diminutive European lands on the right.
This Muslim view of itself as the fulcrum of the world “ in reality it was
(and remains) divided against itself and contained a rich fare of different
perspectives and tendencies “ was nurtured by the remarkable capacity
of Islamic society to accept and make use of technical innovations, like
paper; cities such as Baghdad were famous for their ¬ne-quality paper,
which enabled the development of Arabic numerals, map-making and
the impressive calligraphic copies of the Qur™¯ n. Early Islam was also
driven by an ethical vision that was universalising in two related senses.
The Qur™¯ n rejected the idea of a chosen people. Instead, it emphasised a
strong sense of common human destiny. The monotheistic belief in Allah
as Creator implied universalism. It required that human life be measured
by standards larger than tribal standards, such as individual and group
pride and vengeful, blood-feuding honour; the quest for goodness im-
plied living up to the God-given standards of the world as a whole. The
universalism of Islam naturally implied the need to ˜disenchant™ the world
by ridding it of superstition and idolatry. The belief in Allah as Creator
was also seen to demand moral purity and responsibility of the individ-
ual. Although the Qur™¯ n made no attempt to lay down a comprehensive
system of morals “ it did not pretend to be a know-all ideology “ its em-
phasis on moral purity and responsibility implied the need for just social
behaviour, as well as the need for a just political system that would curb
the licence of the strong and extend generosity to the weak.
The understanding by Muslims that Islam was a higher synthesis of two
distinct predecessors “ Judaism and Christianity “ proved in the long run
to be a vital contribution to the precious political principle of toleration of
different, potentially con¬‚icting ways of life. Although Islam™s ¬rm com-
mitment to monotheism ruled out sympathy for scepticism or outright
disbelief, and although it supposed (according to a species of teleological
metaphysics) that Judaism and Christianity had been superseded, Islam
was undoubtedly a force for cosmopolitan pluralism. Muslims drew back
from the bigoted view that the belief systems of Jews and Christians were
somehow ˜irrational™ or just plain ˜wrong™. They instead reasoned that the
birth of Muhammad and the revelations of the Qur™¯ n perfected the ear-
lier revelations embodied in Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad was
seen to have set the seal on the words and deeds of earlier prophets sent by
God; analogously, the Qur™¯ n was His ¬nal and most perfect revelation.
So it can be said with hindsight that Islam was the ¬rst of the world™s great
42 Global Civil Society?

religious civilisations to understand itself as one religion among others.
There is evidence as well that, quite unlike Judaism or Christianity or
any previous ancient pagan cult, Islam was responsible for the invention
of the very idea and term of religion itself. ˜Say: O Unbelievers!™, begins
one command. It continues: ˜I shall not worship what you worship. You
do not worship what I worship. I am not a worshiper of what you have
worshiped and you are not worshipers of what I have worshiped. To you,
your religion. To me, my religion.™2
Islam™s universalising achievements were impressive in a second “
geopolitical “ sense. During the ¬rst century and a half after the birth of
the Prophet, Muslim believers and armies advanced westward to north
Africa and thence into Spain and France, and eastward into Byzantium,
across Persia and into India and China. These Muslims considered them-
selves as messengers in the world. They thought in terms of the distinction
between people who had already heeded the call of God and people who
still awaited (or were denied) that call. The distinction took various forms.
Some jurists and scholars contrasted the actually existing community
of believers (ummat ad-da™wah) with the potentially universal commu-
nity of humanity (ummat al-istijabah). Others quoted the two-fold appeal
within the Qur™¯ n: ˜O you Believers™ (ya ayyuha allatheena aamanu) and
˜O Mankind™ (ya ayyuha™n-naasu). Still others distinguished between
the House of Islam (D¯ r al-Isl¯ m) and the House of Unbelievers (D¯ r
a a a
al-Kufr). And there were some proselytising Muslims who supposed that
the world was sub-divided into the House of Islam (D˜ r al-Isl˜ m), those
a a
territories where the laws of Islam prevailed, and the rest of the world,
called the House of War (D˜ r al-Harb). This latter division, which had
no basis in the Qur™¯ n, was not seen to be static, for in time, so Mus-
lim scholars and jurists supposed, Islam would prevail among the world™s
peoples, either by willing acceptance, or by spiritual fervour, or (in the
face of violent resistances) by conquest. Note that in every case, jurists
and scholars agreed that all of humanity, including those who lived in
the House of Unbelievers, would either accept or (voluntarily) submit
to Islam. Note as well Islam™s lack of interest in the originally European
project of dividing the world into nations or states. Islamic scholars in-
stead supposed that since there is only one God, so there must be only
one law on earth “ and therefore only one religious duty, the struggle to
serve God by effort or striving (jih¯ d).
In practice, things turned out differently. Islam™s universalism was
thwarted, leaving many Muslims with a forward-looking memory that

Su-rat 109. On the path-breaking conception of religion in Islam, see W. Cantwell Smith,
2 ¯
The Meaning and End of Religion (New York, 1964), pp. 58ff. and 75ff.
Catalysts 43

remains strong until today: a vivid awareness of Islam™s splendid historical
achievements combined with the refusal to accept the present-day world,
which is felt to be an imposed burden. There were several reasons why
Islam™s universalising vision did not fully mature, including the elemen-
tary fact that, at its highpoint, some parts of the world were not ˜discov-
ered™ by Islam, let alone drawn into the Umma through conquest. Until
the nineteenth century, for instance, Muslims knew nothing of terra aus-
tralis and its surrounding islands. The Europe “ spelled Uruba “ from
which Islam had been militarily expelled had become rather ill-de¬ned;
and the southern Americas, conquered by the Spanish, Portuguese and
British, among others, were off-limits. Moreover, when it came to deal-
ing with the House of Unbelievers, Islam demonstrated a willingness
to compromise with its opponents, one of which, Christianity, subse-
quently stopped it in its tracks. Consequently, the principle of jih¯ d, the
duty to struggle for God against His doubters and enemies, was rarely
put unconditionally. Since victory over the world of non-believers was
ultimately assured, others, including trade and traf¬c with the in¬del,
were encouraged. Figures like Ibn Maaja, al-Miqreezi, and Saa™id al-
Andalussi excelled at the art of travel and, in fact, many Muslims con-
sidered travellers (rahhaalah) and traders (tujjaar) as engaged in forms
of worship. The point was to change the world by using all means, in-
cluding the stretching of one™s perceptual horizons, so that all human
beings, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, male and fe-
male, Christian and Jew, would come to regard Islam as the universal
In practice, these precepts met with mixed success, especially from the
time of the Crusades. Between the eleventh and ¬fteenth centuries, not
only was Islam forced militarily to withdraw from certain territories, like
Italy, Portugal and Spain, whose reconquest was in effect postponed from
earthly to messianic time. Its vision of world unity also fragmented into
many smaller regional or state units. Truces and peace agreements with
in¬dels, across borders, became prolonged. The practice of extending the
right of safe conduct (am¯ n) of in¬dels to visit and pass through Muslim
lands, extending this right even to whole communities (of traders and
diplomats, for instance) to reside there inde¬nitely, became common-
place. There were also moves by certain jurists to recognise what was
¯ ¯
called the House of Truce or House of Covenant (Dar al-Sulh or Dar
al ˜Ahd). This was understood as a kind of intermediary zone compris-
ing non-Muslim political units which were allowed to retain and enjoy
their quasi-independent status and engage in political and commercial ex-
changes for the price of paying ¬nancial tributes and giving contractual
recognition (˜ahd) to Muslim suzerainty.
44 Global Civil Society?

The path to 1914
The complex history of the interaction of the Christian and Islamic uni-
verses “ the dialectics of their mutual admiration, their intercourse, mu-
tual suspicion and military hostilities “ need not detain us here.3 It is
important only to note that the rise of the Christian West out of the
heartlands of the European region effectively blocked the Islamic quest
for world supremacy. The appearance of the West on the world stage “
the birth around 1500 of what Fernand Braudel famously called ˜histoire
globale™ “ was made possible by its superior naval power, deep-rooted
pugnacity and comparative immunity to disease. Although it often tri-
umphed by using uncivilised, violent means, this world-conquering power
of the West became the saddle in which European versions of civil soci-
ety institutions rode to the four corners of the earth, for the ¬rst time.4
The West was not just synonymous with great voyages of discovery and
the rise of capitalism and the territorial state. It gave birth as well to
modern struggles for liberty of the press, written constitutions, religious
toleration, new codes of ˜civil™ manners (often connected with sport),
non-violent power-sharing, and talk of democracy and human rights,
whose combined ˜ethos™ gradually spawned the growth of civil society
By the nineteenth century, the visible outlines of a robust global civil
society were evident. During the half-century of events that unfolded
prior to the outbreak of the First World War, it underwent a great growth
spurt. Graham Wallas summarised this trend towards ˜The Great So-
ciety™. ˜During the last hundred years™, he wrote in 1914, ˜the external
conditions of civilised life have been transformed by a . . . general change
of social scale. Men ¬nd themselves working and thinking and feeling in
relation to an environment, which, both in its world-wide extension and
its intimate connection with all sides of human existence, is without prece-
dent in the history of the world.™5 During these years, the foundations
of worldliness markedly strengthened. Today™s global civil society rests
on these foundations: it grows in old soil and “ to switch to a favourite
simile in the arsenal of modern conservatism “ it would perish like an
insect at the end of summer were it not for the worldly traditions of long-
distance trade and commerce, travel and self-organisation that are now
3 Among the reliable studies are Ira M. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge
and New York, 1988), esp. part 3.
4 See, for example, the studies of Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topik, The World That
Trade Created. Society, Culture, and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present (London, 2002),
and R. J. Barendse, The Arabian Seas. The Indian Ocean World of the Seventeenth Century
(London, 2002).
5 Graham Wallas, The Great Society (London, 1914), p. 3.
Catalysts 45

part of the world™s inheritance. The new-fangled words ˜global civil soci-
ety™ are sorcerous in this respect. Their recent invention might convince
the uninitiated that a global civil society is a recent invention. The plain
fact, however, is that quite a lot of what is characteristic of today™s global
civil society originated in the half-century before 1914, when the planet
began to feel much more tightly knitted together by the threads of people,
capital, commodities and ideas in motion.6
Lots of examples spring to mind. In this period, for the ¬rst time in
human history, the globe was ¬nally mapped adequately, thanks to car-
tographers armed with guns and expeditions like the race of Peary of
the United States to the North Pole (1909) and Amundsen of Norway
to the South Pole (1911).7 This same period saw radical changes in the
nature and scope of transportation and communication technologies, for
instance the invention and diffusion of the telegraph, telephones and
wireless communications. The ¬rst transatlantic cable was laid in 1866.
During the same decade, the steamship connected masses of people and
goods to the shores of the world™s great oceans. The world™s railway net-
work expanded ¬ve times between 1875 and 1914 (from 200,000 km
to over 1 million km), while available ¬gures of the tonnage moved by
merchant ships show a doubling in the same period. Travel by rail and
steamship naturally became commonplace and “ thanks to developments
like the completion in 1904 of the Trans-Siberian Railway, which enabled
passengers to travel between Paris and Vladivostok in a fortnight “ the
time of intercontinental and trans-continental journeys was reduced from
months to weeks. Little wonder, then, that one-seventh of the world™s
population moved countries during this period. 36 million people alone
left Europe between 1871 and 1915.8 Meanwhile, the motorised car was
made operational by Daimler and Benz during the 1880s, and there were
even some signs that the new means of space- and time-conquering means
of communication would become genuinely popular. The average num-
ber of letters sent annually by each adult inhabitant in Britain rose from
two in 1815 to forty-two in the 1880s. Submarine and overland cabling

6 The seminal account of this period is Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire 1875“1914 (New
York, 1989); see also Roland Robertson, ˜Mapping the Global Condition: Globalization
as the Central Concept™, in Mike Featherstone (ed.), Global Culture (London, 1993),
pp. 15“30.
7 A fascinating example, the mapping of Guyana, is analysed in D. Graham Burnett, Masters
of All They Surveyed. Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado (Chicago, 2000). Note
the contemporary remark of Max Weber in Archiv f¨ r Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik,
12:1 (1906), pp. 347“8: ˜there is no new continent at our disposal.™
8 Dudley Baines, Emigration from Europe (Cambridge and New York, 1995), p. 1; W. Arthur
Lewis, Growth and Fluctuations, 1870“1914 (London, 1978), p. 181; and Aron Segal and
Linda Marston, ˜World Voluntary Migration™, Migration World, 17:1 (1989), pp. 36“41.
46 Global Civil Society?

enabled telegraph messages to whizz around the world as never before.
The telephone also spread rapidly so that by 1910 signi¬cant numbers
of households in countries like the United States and Britain were proud
owners and users, mainly for conversing at a distance with family and
Another striking development during this period was the creation, for
the ¬rst time, of a single global economy that stretched from its European
homelands towards every remote atoll, desert plateau and jungle basin
of the earth.9 Measured in terms of gross national product (GNP), both
the exports and imports of capital were considerably greater than today.
The long-distance networks of trade and commerce grew especially tight
among the more ˜developed™ countries; four-¬fths of imports and exports
of goods and foreign investments ¬‚owed within this bloc.10 There were
nevertheless modest increases in trade with Asia, Oceania and Africa; and
webs of interdependence were spun over most of the rest of the world,
transforming them into colonial or semi-colonial territories. The whole
world consequently began to feel much smaller, thanks to long-distance
trade in commodities entering markets in Europe. The new motor and
electrical industries hungered after copper from Zambia, Zaire, Peru and
Chile. Meat came from Uruguay, wheat from Australia, nitrates from
Chile, rubber from the Congo and the Amazon basin, coffee from Brazil,
and cigars and sugar from Cuba. A whole world clothed itself in cheap
and hygienic cotton textiles developed originally in Manchester.
The dramatic expansion of long-distance commerce was ¬‚anked by
the full-throated growth in the number and scope of cross-border, non-
governmental, not-for-pro¬t organisations. Their signi¬cance is some-
times ignored by historians.11 Or it is claimed that their in¬‚uence was
restricted to Christian missionary activity; or that the social and political
impact of this part of the nascent global civil society was at ¬rst minimal,
becoming signi¬cant for the ¬rst time only in the aftermath of the Second
World War.12
These three approaches are misleading, for several reasons. Contrary
to some secularist accounts of the pre-1914 period, Christian missionary

9 Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital 1848“1875 (London, 1988), chapter 3.
10 P. Bairoch, ˜Geographical Structure and Trade Balance of European Foreign Trade from
1800 to 1970™, Journal of European Economic History, 3 (1974), pp. 557“608.
11 Eric Hobsbawm does so in his classic account of this period, The Age of Empire. Com-
pare Harold K. Jacobson, Networks of Interdependence. International Organizations and the
Global Political System (New York, 1984), esp. pp. 32“58 and John Boli and George M.
Thomas (eds.), Constructing World Culture (Stanford, 1999).
12 Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire; and, for example, David Armstrong et al., From Versailles
to Maastricht: International Organisation in the Twentieth Century (Basingstoke, 1996),
pp. 5, 55, 85, 250.
Catalysts 47

activity reached record proportions. Championed by bodies bearing fear-
some names like the Society for Converting and Civilizing the Indians,
Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, and the Society for
the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the numbers of transla-
tions of the Bible soared to nearly 120 different languages and dialects;
the number of new missions, especially in Africa, also soared.13 Although
missionary adventures typically pick-a-backed on the industrial and mili-
tary and naval might of imperial states, sheltering under the sword to save
the soul, the missionaries were often at odds with the authorities in such
colonies as Uganda, Nyasaland (Malawi) and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and
Zambia). They were not the only examples of ˜civilising™ initiatives. In
fact “ contrary to the standard account “ during this period many scores
of civic initiatives, not only religious endeavours, ensured that groups that
later came to be called NGOs came to play a visible role in publicising
social problems and grievances and fostering new forms of intergovern-
mental cooperation.
Examples spring readily from the pages of much-neglected histories
and primary accounts of the period. Path-breaking negotiations took
place on the need to grant a juridical status (international legal person-
ality) to non-pro¬t ˜private™ groups having an international purpose and
permitting membership from different countries.14 This period also saw
the emergence, for the ¬rst time, of a new collective self-awareness among
NGOs of their moral in¬‚uence and power potential in trans-national set-
tings. The decision in Brussels in 1910 to found the Union of Interna-
tional Associations at the World Congress of International Associations
attended by 132 international associations and thirteen governments was
one important symbol of this emergent self-re¬‚exiveness.15 Meanwhile,
in various policy areas, civic initiatives and movements started lessons
in the art of pressuring political power; they discovered that they could
dig their ¬ngers into the ¬‚esh of governments, and extract concessions,
either in the form of intergovernmental agreements to cooperate in policy
matters, or through new social policy measures.
Practically all of the important social reforms backed by governments
before 1914 “ in areas like intellectual property, narcotics traf¬cking,

13 James Sibree, A Register of Missionaries . . . from 1796 to 1923 (London, 1923); Encyclo-
pedia of Missions, 2nd edn. (New York and London, 1904), appendix iv, pp. 838“9.
14 See the 23 Annuaire de L™Institut de Droit International (Brussels, 1910), p. 551 and Peter
H. Rohn, Relations Between the Council of Europe and International Non-Governmental
Organizations (Union of International Associations, 6 [Brussels, 1957]), pp. 17“19.
15 See 1 Congr`s Mondial des Associations Internationales 1910 (Brussels, 1911) and the
publication of the Union of International Associations, Union of International Associations
1910“1970 (Brussels, 1970), pp. 26“7.
48 Global Civil Society?

labour conditions and prostitution “ were due not to government initia-
tive, but rather to the direct or indirect pressures exerted by voluntary,
self-organising social initiatives.16 The practice of government of¬cials
participating alongside civil society actors in international conferences
became customary. It is even correct to speak of the emergence, for the
¬rst time in the modern world, of traditions of cross-border civil initiatives.
Some of these initiatives aimed to establish a standardised global legal in-
frastructure. Networks of associations of statisticians and scientists, for
instance, pressed for the creation of an International Bureau of Weights
and Measures, which was formed in 1875 at the International Metric
Conference, attended by scientists representing each member country.17
Measures were also tabled in the ¬eld of intellectual property. At the
Universal Exposition of 1878, a Literary Congress of authors, artists and
jurists presided over by Victor Hugo agreed to form a body that came to
be called (in 1886) the International Union for the Protection of Literary
and Artistic Works.18 Similar trends were evident in the ¬eld of trans-
portation. During the 1880s, business groups, Life Saving Service of¬-
cials, masters from the merchant marine and other groups convinced the
British and American governments to convene an International Maritime
Conference to examine proposals for enhancing assistance and salvage of
life and property on the high seas. Various railway companies and gov-
ernments meanwhile formed the International Railway Congress Associ-
ation, which was reshaped into the fully intergovernmental Central Of¬ce
for International Railway Transport, founded in 1890.19
The pre-1914 world also saw the emergence of a wide variety of public
initiatives concerned to blow the whistle on state institutions and social
injustices and other incivilities. The civil societies of the period bordering
on the First World War, like their contemporary counterparts, were both
outward-looking and capable of demanding better political protection
and service from governments “ even of building civil bridges towards
the wider world. When the ¬rst Hague Peace Conference convened in
1899, for instance, scores of ˜peace societies™ travelled to lobby the of-
¬cial conference delegates. A petition signed by millions of women in
16 Raymond Leslie Buell, International Relations (London, 1926), p. 271, n. 2, and Jacobson,
Networks of Interdependence, pp. 50“1: ˜By the middle of the nineteenth century there were
three times as many INGOs as IGOs, and until 1940 INGOs were created at a more
rapid pace than IGOs. On the eve of World War II there were thirteen times as many
INGOs as IGOs.™
17 See John A. Johnson, ˜Scienti¬c Organizations and the Development of International
Law™, Proceedings of the American Society of International Law (April 1960), pp. 206“7.
18 Stephen P. Ladas, The International Protection of Literary and Artistic Property ( New York,
1938), vol. 1, p. 73.
19 Steve Charnovitz, ˜Two Centuries of Participation: NGOs and International Gover-
nance™, Michigan Journal of International Law, 18:183 (Winter 1997), p. 202.
Catalysts 49

eighteen countries was presented; deputations from members of stateless
nations (Finns, Macedonians, Poles, Armenians) met with various dele-
gates; and an unof¬cial newspaper covered the event, in de¬ance of the
conference rules of secrecy. The event had all the qualities of a ˜parallel™
NGO forum designed to use an intergovernmental meeting as a plat-
form for publicising grievances and lobbying for different government
policies.20 Events leading up to the Hague Opium Convention (held in
1912) and the struggles of reform societies, temperance groups and mis-
sionaries for the international prohibition of alcohol followed a similar
Meanwhile, the rise of the cooperative and workers™ movement rep-
resented a profound challenge to market domination within the actually
existing civil societies. It put its ¬nger on a central organising mechanism
of these societies: commodity production and exchange. And it organised
to counter the power of private capital by means of counter-institutions,
like the cooperative and the trade union, which backed new public poli-
cies such as the abolition of child labour and night work by women, the
reduction of working time, and improved conditions of employment, in-
cluding the elimination of health hazards. Such demands sometimes stim-
ulated the growth of trans-national organising, the ¬rst fruits of which
included the International Federation of Tobacco Workers and the In-
ternational Federation for the Observation of Sunday, both founded in
1876. ˜Workers of all countries unite!™ was not just a slogan from the quills
of Marx and Engels. Through the international idea of ˜socialism™ “ the
new, blood-red word minimally meant opposition to ˜wage slavery™, in
favour of the de-commodi¬cation of social and political life “ and through
its newly-formed party-political organs, the workers™ movement organ-
ised across borders to confront particular employers, whole industries
and (in the case of general strikes) the capitalist economies inside whole
states. The movement, whose support was drawn overwhelmingly from
Europeans and white emigrants or their descendants, attacked govern-
ments as well: sometimes to seek their overthrow, but mostly to secure
20 Barbara W. Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890“1914
(London, 1975), p. 257; more generally, Peter J. Spiro, ˜New Global Communi-
ties: Nongovernmental Organizations in International Decision-Making Institutions™,
Washington Quarterly, 18 (Winter 1995), pp. 45, 49; George Frederick W. Holls, The
Peace Conference at the Hague (New York, 1900), p. 329; and James Brown Scott, The
Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 (Baltimore, 1909), pp. 172“3.
21 On the efforts of groups like the Anglo-Oriental Society for the Suppression of the Opium
Trade (founded in 1874), see Peter D. Lowes, The Genesis of International Narcotics
Control (Geneva, 1966) and Virginia Berridge and Grif¬th Edwards, Opium and the People
(London, 1981); on the anti-alcohol movement, see F. S. L. Lyons, Internationalism in
Europe 1815“1914 (Leyden, 1963), pp. 266“7 and Ernest Gordon, The Anti-Alcohol
Movement in Europe (New York, 1913).
50 Global Civil Society?

their reform. Demands for the extension of the franchise were common-
place, as were calls for new government social policies (like unemploy-
ment insurance) and the hosting of of¬cial and unof¬cial conferences,
which led to the establishment of bodies like the International Working
Men™s Association, the International Association for Labor Legislation,
and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The century of violence
It is unimportant in this context to judge the effectiveness of these various
civil society initiatives, which serve here merely as illustrations of how, out
of old Europe, the rudiments of a global civil society developed. Naturally,
these rudiments raised questions about the proper governing structures
for a world that felt (and was) ever more tightly knitted together. The
mid-nineteenth-century trend towards free trade and free competition “
symbolised by the staging of splendid International Expositions22 “ was
accompanied by two striking developments on the governance front. The
infrastructure of governmental power constructed during this pre-1914
period was the ¬rst of these trends. Max Weber, always an astute ob-
server of power relations, noted (in 1897) that the ˜trade expansion by
all civilised bourgeois-controlled nations™ would soon lead to a world in
which ˜only power, naked power™ would decide each state™s aggregate
share in the universal appropriation of the world™s resources.23 He was
not wrong. This period indeed saw an unprecedented carve-up of the
world™s land and oceans by a clutch of imperialistic states: France, Italy,
Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, Japan, the United States and the
world™s most powerful political unit, Great Britain. Formal annexation
often resulted. During the four decades before 1914, driven by states™
search for new markets and political hegemony, a quarter of the earth™s
land was formally colonised or re-colonised.24
The thrust towards global imperialism “ the word itself ¬rst became
part of the vernacular of journalism and politics during the 1890s “ came

22 Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital, chapter 2.
23 Max Weber, Badische Landeszeitung (16 December 1897), p. 1, cited in Wolfgang J.
Mommsen, Max Weber and German Politics 1890“1920 (Chicago and London, 1984),
p. 77.
24 Cf. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, p. 59: ˜Britain increased its territories by some
4 million square miles, France by some 3.5 millions, Germany acquired more than
1 million, Belgium and Italy just under 1 million each. The USA acquired some 100,000,
mainly from Spain, Japan something like the same amount from China, Russia and
Korea. Portugal™s ancient African colonies expanded by about 300,000 square miles;
Spain, while a net loser (to the USA), still managed to pick up some stony territory in
Morocco and the Western Sahara.™
Catalysts 51

wrapped in racialist and public rituals (like Britain™s ˜Empire Day™,
launched in 1902, mainly to win over captive audiences of ¬‚ag-waving
children), nationalist appeals and calls for trade protection. The 1887
British Merchandise Marks Acts, which required products to be stamped
with their country of origin, plus loud German complaints about British
trade-envy (Handelsneid), together signalled the onset of political and
military rivalries. It was therefore unsurprising that this period saw the
rapid proliferation of state-sponsored congresses and witnessed vari-
ous attempts “ ill-fated, it turned out “ to champion new regulatory
structures.25 For almost a century after the Congress of Vienna, which
stabilised the continental order that had been threatened by Napoleon™s
armies, the political elites of Europe had tried to keep peace and improve
intergovernmental links by hosting face-to-face meetings. Between 1850
and 1913, more than 100 such congresses were held.26 They were of-
ten convened by cosmopolitan-minded monarchs “ by ¬gures like Baron
Pierre de Coubertin, the creator of the modern Olympics, who were keen
to exercise political initiative by riding their favourite hobby-horses and
indulging their sense of noblesse oblige. These congresses touched on mat-
ters ranging from submarine cables and ¬shing zones to the opium trade,
unemployment and ˜the Eastern question™. They were supplemented by
the ¬rst state-sponsored international exhibitions and fairs, like the 1851
Great Exhibition, convened in London at the height of Britain™s impe-
rial con¬dence by Prince Albert.27 Serviced by railway trips organised by
the entrepreneur Thomas Cook, and housed in an ultra-modern palace
of glass, the exhibition highlighted the political pride standing alongside
Britain™s manufacturing industries and the exotic products of its Empire;
the exhibition even had room for the latest technical gadgets, like the
bed that physically ejected its occupant in the morning (Queen Victoria
was apparently much taken with the design) and the American device for
playing the piano and the violin at the same time.
During the same period, comparatively few of the new regulatory
structures “ the International Penitentiary Commission, the International
Maritime Bureau against the Slave Trade, the Permanent Court of Arbi-
tration and the International Bureau for Information and Enquiries re-
garding Relief to Foreigners “ were set up for the stated higher purposes of
25 Michael Wallace and J. David Singer, ˜Intergovernmental Organization in the Global
System, 1815“1964™, International Organization, 24 (Spring 1970), pp. 239“87.
26 See the list of major congresses collated in Craig N. Murphy, International Organiza-
tion and Industrial Change. Global Governance since 1850 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 57“9; see
also Norman L. Hill, The Public International Conference: Its Functions, Organization and
Procedure (Stanford, 1929).
27 Michael Leapman, The World For a Shilling. How the Great Exhibition of 1851 shaped a
Nation (London, 2001).
52 Global Civil Society?

bringing legal harmony, peace and good government to the world. Most
aimed to facilitate the expansion of communications and commerce.
Bodies like the International Central American Of¬ce, set up by Mexico
and the United States for the purpose of politically integrating Nicaragua,
El Salvador and Honduras, were crafted as regional bodies with strictly
de¬ned mandates. Others had broad, ultimately universal remits. Their
numbers grew exponentially. The International Telegraph Union (ITU)
and the International Commission for the Cape Spartel Light in Tangier,
both established in 1865, were the ¬rst such intergovernmental organisa-
tions, nearly all of which were not organisations with a life of their own;
member governments held them in tight rein, restricting them to the role
of forums for the exchange of information and policy coordination.
Contemporary proposals for global governing structures and a ˜plane-
tary patriotism™ (Alfred Zimmern) appeared after 1917 in a surprising va-
riety of contexts. This ˜new internationalism™ (as Trentmann has pointed
out28 ) was inspired by the successful efforts of experimental intergovern-
mental bodies like the Allied Maritime Transport Executive (AMTE), set
up for the purpose of removing bottlenecks and regulating the ¬‚ows of
global shipping. The bold political thinking inspired by such regulatory
structures seems in retrospect to be rather na¨ve. They did not properly
address the harsh facts of disorderly ¬nancial markets (caused by ˜spec-
ulation™ and ˜fashionable fraud™29 ), big-power military and diplomatic
rivalries and “ presaged by mass protests against immigration during the
1890s in countries like Australia and the United States “ the strong popu-
lar resistance to cosmopolitan values in many of the countries with weight
to throw around in the world. And yet “ from the standpoint of a theory
of global civil society “ among the positive effects of this period was a
vast increase in the intermingling of Western cultures with those of the
rest of the world. Sometimes, the results were democratic, in that they
planted the seeds of a positive, world-wide recognition, in circles where
it mattered, of the ˜hybridity™ of all cultures. Nineteenth-century human-
itarians, treading the pathways opened up by ¬gures like the Reverend
John Philip, superintendent of the London Missionary Society in South

28 Frank Trentmann, ˜The Local and the Global: New Internationalism and the Recon¬g-
uration of National and Transnational Citizenship During and After World War One™,
unpublished paper (Toronto, November 2001). Trentmann cites a remarkably prescient
speech by Alfred Zimmern, founder of the School of International Studies in Geneva: ˜If
we want to have a really ef¬cient international government™, said Zimmern, anticipating
by nearly a century the perspective of global civil society, ˜we must build it up from
international voluntary societies, so that at every step voluntary associations watch over
the work of the governments in those subjects in which they are dealing™ (Trentmann,
2001, p. 7).
29 Lionel Robbins, The Great Depression (London, 1934), p. 63.
Catalysts 53

Africa, framed their missions in a universal language of civility that im-
plied civil liberties and legal protections for colonised peoples. Mahatma
Gandhi (1869“1948), the bespectacled saint who dressed in loincloth
and practised the art of satyagraha (˜¬rmness in truth™) against social in-
justice and political unfreedom, remains another enduring symbol of this
trend. From a modest caste of traders and usurers who had until then
not been members of the westernised Indian elite that helped administer
the British colony, Gandhi travelled to England to study law. It is well
known that his return home to practise law was short-lived; he moved to
South Africa, where discrimination against the Indian minority by whites
there led him to experiment with non-violent tactics of political oppo-
sition: these later became central to his role as spearhead of the Indian
resistance to empire. Determined to live his life as a vishvamanav, a man
who belonged to the universe, he was elected (in 1925) president of the
Indian National Congress, involved himself in long campaigns of civil
disobedience, including a ˜fast unto death™ (1932) protest against the gov-
ernment™s treatment of ˜untouchables™. He continued to press his credo:
˜I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to
be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my houses
as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.™30 For his
pains, he was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned and publicly abused,
often nick-named ˜Mohammed Gandhi™; and soon after negotiating
Indian autonomy, he was assassinated (at the end of January 1948) by a
Hindu fundamentalist.
The murder proved that the spirit of civility symbolised by Gandhi was
wreckable; it also served as an epitaph for what had already happened
to the belle epoque and its globalising civil society. By the early years of
the twentieth century, the belief (popularised by writers like Norman
Angell31 ) that the dynamic of integration was unstoppable “ that it made
war between highly developed industrial states impossible “ began to be
exposed as an opium dream. Something far grimmer than gunboat diplo-
macy lurked just around the corner: humanity™s ¬rst-ever global war, fol-
lowed by three extraordinary decades of violence. The First World War
was a great setback for civil society and its cosmopolitan ideals. The car-
nage produced by the clash of men and steel “ 8 million people died and
21 million were wounded “ was ¬nally halted in 1918.32 Peace seemed at

30 Cited in Bhikhu Parekh, Gandhi. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2001), p. 42.
31 Norman Angell™s The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to
their Economic and Social Advantage (London, 1910) reveals the beginnings of a global lit-
erary culture during this period. It was translated into eighteen languages and it appeared
immediately in fourteen countries.
32 See Michael Howard, The First World War (Oxford, 2002).
54 Global Civil Society?

¬rst to promise a new beginning. As whole empires and dozens of monar-
chies collapsed, the ¬rst Czechoslovak president Thomas Masaryk spoke
of the post-war world as ˜a laboratory atop a vast graveyard™. Woodrow
Wilson was in no doubt that the experiment had everything to do with
making the world safe for civil liberties and political democracy. In fact,
social confusion, disappointment and political resistance to civil soci-
ety ¬‚ourished everywhere. Under pressure from peasant radicals, unem-
ployed workers, nationalist demagogues, fascist paramilitaries, bandits
and Bolsheviks, the new civil society chains and networks snapped, as
if history itself had turned nasty. Most of the civil society failures were
linked in one way or another with the breakdown of governmental struc-
tures, which typically passed through a sequence of three phases: a loss of
governmental power, followed by a power vacuum that soon encouraged
the takeover of power by uncivil and anti-democratic forces. The pattern
was not con¬ned to Europe, and it was to last for most of the twenti-
eth century. So, between 1900 and 1985, around ¬fty-two experiments
in civilised, democratic power-sharing at the level of the territorial state
ended disastrously, to be replaced by one of three types of regime: na-
tionalist military dictatorship, with its roots in the poder moderador model
of nineteenth-century Spain and Latin America; royal dictatorship, like
Rumania under King Carol and inter-war Yugoslavia; and totalitarian
regimes led by charismatic ¬gures like Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler.
Seen from a civil society perspective, these were highly destructive de-
velopments. Following the First World War, cross-border social initiatives
no doubt survived. Peace societies indeed ¬‚ourished. The newly estab-
lished League of Nations played the role of catalyst to many globalising
initiatives, many of them fragmentary and embryonic.33 Bodies like the
International Chamber of Commerce (founded in 1920) held periodic
congresses that were seen by contemporaries as a ˜world parliament of
business™.34 The ILO, comprising employer and worker delegates ap-
proved by governments, played a key role in hosting conferences and
drafting conventions for the regulation of labour rights and standards,
in diverse areas like women™s employment and disabled workers. The
women™s movement, driven by world-wide hopes of enfranchisement,

33 Examples included the Foreign Policy Association, the Anglo-Oriental Society for the
Suppression of the Opium Trade, the International League for the Rights of Man and
Citizenship, and the International Missionary Council. Salvador de Madariaga, The
World™s Design (London, 1938) notes that ˜a whole vegetation of international societies
has sprung up, or has gathered round, the League “ paci¬st, feminist, juridical™ (p. 275);
a similar view of the League as a ˜phenomenon of international professional representation™
is developed in Georges Scelle, Une crise de la societ´ des nations (Paris, 1927), p. 142.
34 Lyman Cromwell White, International Non-Governmental Organizations (Philadelphia,
1951), p. 20.
Catalysts 55

made its presence felt through organisations like the Women™s Interna-
tional League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).35 And solidarity cam-
paigns developed around events like the collapse of the Primo de Rivera
dictatorship and the outbreak of civil war in Spain.
On the scale of twentieth-century developments, alas, these develop-
ments were exceptional. Especially during the years after 1930, the world
spun out of control, careering towards bellicose forms of political division
and outbreaks of social violence, in the shadows of such novel experiences
as total war, aerial bombardment, concentration camps, genocide and
the threat of nuclear annihilation. The barbarous trends directly violated
what Thomas Hobbes famously called ˜the mutual relation between Pro-
tection and Obedience™.36 According to the Hobbesian axiom of protego
ergo obligo, no form of political order can exist without the protection
and obedience of its subjects. Once upon a time, in many core countries
of the Atlantic region, exactly this kind of political contract was struck
between the authorities and of¬cials of states, on the one side, and the
citizen-inhabitants of those territorially de¬ned states on the other. The
contract read like this: citizens agree to accept the universality and legit-
imacy of the compulsory navigation functions and policies of the ship of
state on the condition that its sovereign powers will be used to keep out
interlopers “ to use armies and weapons and passports and identity cards
and surveillance systems to de¬ne ˜who belongs and who does not, who
may come and go and who not™37 “ as well as to keep order and secure
the economic well-being and cultural identities of those same passenger
citizens. In return, the captains of the ship of state authorise and seek to
enhance certain entitlements of citizens, including their civil and politi-
cal freedoms to organise and act with and against each other peacefully
within civil society.
This political contract was strongly presumed in the United States,
France and other actually existing parliamentary democracies; elsewhere,
especially after the First World War in countries like Poland, Germany
and Yugoslavia, it served as something of a political utopia for scores of
new and reforming states and their would-be citizens. Their dreams were
to be thwarted. For many millions of people, the unwritten Hobbesian
contract proved worthless, especially during the Second World War,
which undoubtedly proved to be the nadir of the contemporary his-
tory of global civil society. That global war certainly strengthened the

35 Catherine Foster, Women for All Seasons: The Story of the Women™s International League for
Peace and Freedom (Athens, GA and London, 1989).
36 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London, 1651), p. 396.
37 John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport. Surveillance, Citizenship and the State
(Cambridge, 2000), p. 13.
56 Global Civil Society?

political contract in the handful of victorious states like Britain, the United
States and Canada; as well, it encouraged post-colonial and ˜liberation™
struggles and, hence, the spread of the modern territorial state system
throughout the rest of the world.38 But the bloody global con¬‚ict also
triggered exactly the opposite trend: the territorial state™s violation of the
contract “ the long-term de-legitimation and de-universalisation of state
sovereignty “ because of the total mobilisation and sacri¬ce of untold
millions by both victorious and vanquished states, who stood accused for
the ¬rst time (in the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals) of committing not
just war crimes, but the ˜crime of war™.39
The sheer scale of violence against civilians undoubtedly reinforced the
civilian mistrust of political authorities, especially in areas where the dis-
tinction between combatants and non-combatants was utterly annulled.
It is little wonder that the ideal of a global civil society was born towards
the end of the twentieth century, which proved to be the most murderous


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