9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN25 Social Movements

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Transnational Activism (II) Building I, 1E3

Social movements and world society. The genesis of a world political system?

There is an increasing discrepancy between a state-differentiated political system and a transnational problem structure (ecological crises, poverty, rapid population growth, etc.). For a substantial number of theorists, (global) civil society (GCS) represents a prospect for a new political world order, beyond the Westphalia state model. At the core of the current enthusiasm of GCS is a fascination with social movements/NGOs - civic activist groups that presumably foster political participations, empowers citizens and thus creates "deeper" forms of democracy. Jürgen Habermas is the most celebrated advocates for a transnational civil society, contributing to a discursive process of democratic will-formation. Against this view, I will argue that the analytical parallel between social movements/NGOs and civil society is theoretical challenging, and thus suggest that NGOs alternatively can be understood as an emerging system. Partly following N. Luhmanns systems theory, I will claim that NGOs can be perceived as a functional response on an imbalance between an emerging world society and a political system differentiated in national-states. Through NGOs society is described as a world society, bringing attention to the need for collaboration and collective orientation on a global scale. NGOs description and radicalization of problems in world society, contributes to a potentially solidarity emerging from collective interest in solving global problems.

Through an empirical case study I will compare WWF-Norway with the normative orientation in the civil society literature. Especially, the paper will focus on the rather clear-cut distinction which is being made between civil society and the political system/state. In the continuation of this, I will analyze how WWF-Norway describes and reflects on the "global situation", and how problems in world society can be solved. What is WWF-Norways reference for global problem "solving". The underlying assumption is that WWF-Norway is both appealing to individuals, local and global communities, but also the political system as means to handle problems in world society.

The subject of my paper relates both to the primary topic of the ESA 2009 conference, and is relevant to the requested topic of "Social Movements research network" (RN25).