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Centre for International Politics
THE RISE AND FALL OF
TRANSNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY:
THE EVOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL
NON-GOVERNMENTAL
ORGANIZATIONS SINCE 1839
Thomas Richard Davies
Working Paper CUTP/003
© Thomas Richard Davies, April 2008
This is a work in progress. Feedback welcome.
Contact: tom.davies@city.ac.uk
WORKING PAPERS ON
TRANSNATIONAL POLITICS
2
Introduction
Three years before the outbreak of the First World War, a prominent American
academic and diplomat, Paul S. Reinsch, claimed that ‘the barren ideal of no
war, no patriotism, no local interest, has given way to a potent centripetal
force…cosmopolitanism is no longer a castle in the air, but it has become
incorporated in numerous associations and unions world-wide in their cooperation.’
1 Similarly, in the post-Cold War era it has been claimed that
transnational (or global) civil society may provide ‘an answer to war’.2 Much of
the evidence provided in this paper suggests that there are reasons to be as
cautious about such claims today as a century ago.
This paper is an early step in an endeavour to explore the history of
transnational civil society. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it will suggest that
transnational civil society may not have developed following a course of linear
progress. Instead, the paper will offer an outline history that suggests that
transnational civil society rises and falls in waves.
The paper begins with an introduction to what is meant by transnational
civil society and a discussion of the possible ways of tracing its historical
evolution. It then provides an assessment of the principal factors that have
affected the development of transnational civil society. Thirdly, the paper offers
an outline history of transnational civil society highlighting the different ways in
which it has arguably ‘risen’ and ‘fallen’ over time. The paper concludes with a
brief assessment of arguments surrounding the future trajectory of transnational
civil...

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