This article questions the notion that the proliferation of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) should be regarded as the vanguard of a new global civil society. It begins by suggesting that the definition of global civil society is confused, at best, and offers competing and largely incompatible understandings of it alongside a retrospective on the political thought of Hannah Arendt, David Chandler, and Ernest Gellner, and the English School of International Relations. This illustrates the ways by which the undemocratic structure of NGOs lead to internal conflicts that often cause them to splinter, with losers leaving to form their own organization. The result is that NGOs are actually contributing a diverse set of mores, rather than a new set of global norms. This growth then can be better understood as atomization, and as much of a hindrance as a help to the formation of a more civil world. It takes the growing criticism of the democratic deficit in Global NGOs a step further from a question of legitimacy to a problem of functionality.
©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston