To be involved in politics without aspiring to govern, be governed by the best leaders, or abolish the institutions of government: such are the constraints that delineate the condition common to all practitioners of nongovernmental politics. What these activists seek to accomplish ranges considerably: providing humanitarian aid, protecting the environment, monitoring human-rights and civil-liberties violations, adding new entitlements to the list of fundamental rights and liberties, defending the interests of corporations’ stakeholders — workers, suppliers, consumers — and expanding public access to knowledge are only the most frequent among their pursuits. Yet, heterogeneous concerns notwithstanding, what all involvements in nongovernmental politics have in common is that they are predicated on an intolerance for the effects of a particular set of governmental practices. In other words, the issue that specifically concerns nongovernmental activists is not who governs but how government is exercised.
Nongovernmental Politics offers a groundbreaking survey of the rapidly expanding domain of nongovernmental activism. The critical essays, profiles of NGOs, and interviews with prominent activists included in this volume attest to the diversity of nongovernmental politics but also to the common predicaments faced by its practitioners — predicaments regarding their legitimacy, strategy, and grievances. This book first examines the various motives — such as defending rights, providing care, supporting fair claims, facilitating access — that nongovernmental activists invoke to justify and specify their modes of intervention. It then successively analyzes the ways in which nongovernmental agencies construct their credibility and publicize their cause, and explores some sites, such as borders and disaster zones, which have a particular significance for nongovernmental work. Finally, Nongovernmental Politics focuses on the competing designs — wresting civil society from the control of an unaccountable state, shaking the global dominance of corporate interests, hastening the return of the Savior, restoring the order prescribed by the Prophet — that currently preside over the endeavors of nongovernmental activists.