Global Civil Society, Anarchy, and Governance: Assessing an Emerging Paradigm

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Turner, Scott (1998) Global Civil Society, Anarchy, and Governance: Assessing an Emerging Paradigm , Journal of Peace Research 35(1): 25–42.

The realist, state-centric paradigm of international relations is reevaluated in light of the emerging role of transnational social movements and nongovernmental organizations. It is argued that global civil society potentially poses both an empirical and normative challenge to realist assumptions. It is shown that realist theory is grounded in the Hobbesian assumption that human beings are naturally avaricious, thus justifying both the state's monopoly of the legitimate use of violence and the anarchical, state-centric system. In contrast to the Hobbesian assumption, global civil society is widely characterized by voluntary cooperation and non-violent political action. It is argued that the Kropotkian tradition of anarchist theory provides a useful counterpoint to the Hobbesian tradition in conceptualizing global civil society. This alternative anarchist tradition views the state itself as the major source of violence in the world, and it highlights the sorts of non-violent, cooperative activities that largely characterize contemporary global civil society. By interjecting an alternative set of assumptions concerning human nature and anarchism, the Kropotkian tradition supports a potentially auspicious reevaluation of the prospects for peaceful international governance in an era of global transformation of the familiar state-centric world order.