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Towards a transnational civil society: Actors and concepts in Europe from the late eighteenth to the twentieth century

Arnd Bauerkämper and Christoph Gumb

No SP IV 2010-401, Discussion Papers, Research Group Civil Society, Citizenship and Political Mobilization in Europe from WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Abstract: Since late eighteenth-century Enlightenment, the concept of civil society has increasingly assumed a transnational dimension that has given rise to political debates and attracted scholarly interest. This paper provides a research report and a historical overview of the emergence and transformation of civil society organizations that have transcended national borders and cultural boundaries, especially International Non-Governmental Organizations. Based on deliberations about the definition and conceptualization of ‘transnational civil society’, the investigation concentrates on the abolitionists, the workers’ organizations as well as on peace and on women’s movements. The authors suggest that further historical studies of transnational civil society should relate its groups and activists to specific contexts and conditions. They also argue that further research should pay particular attention to the actors of transnational civil society, their performance and representations. Overall, static conceptions of transnational civil society have ignored its flexibility and changeability over the course of the last two centuries.

Date: 2010
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