NGOs, Political Protest, and Civil Society

NGOs, Political Protest, and Civil Society

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This book argues that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have an important effect on political participation in the developing world. Contrary to popular belief, they promote moderate political participation through formal mechanisms such as voting only in democracies where institutions are working well. This is a radical departure from the bulk of the literature on civil society that sees NGOs and other associations as playing a role in strengthening democracy wherever they operate. Instead, Carew Boulding shows that where democratic institutions are weak, NGOs encourage much more contentious political participation, including demonstrations, riots, and protests. Except in extreme cases of poorly functioning democratic institutions, however, the political protest that results from NGO activity is not generally anti-system or incompatible with democracy - again, as long as democracy is functioning above a minimal level.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 27 tables
  • 1139991043
  • 9781139991049

Review quote

'Recent literature on the resurgence of protest in Latin America may have inadvertently reinforced the divide between protest politics and electoral politics. Boulding's first-rate analysis of NGOs' protest activity suggests that this divide is fluid rather than fixed. Her study makes an important contribution to the existing literature by explaining how the political context conditions the influence of NGO activity, and how this context, in turn, encourages NGOs to promote protests in some cases and voting in others. Boulding's study also provides a solid foundation about the effects of protest on new democracies, showing that protests are not always incompatible with the workings of young democracies. The methodological sophistication of her analysis is outstanding and well executed. Overall, Boulding has left a footprint on the contentious and comparative politics literatures.' Moises Arce, University of Missouri 'Methodologically, there is finally a book for those pesky graduate students always asking for examples of 'mixed methods' works that complement sophisticated quantitative analysis with causal path-defining field research. Substantively, after a decade of studies telling us that civil society and social capital 'matter' but not how, Carew Boulding's provocative work offers important theoretical and empirical contributions. Her conclusions, that civil society protest may not be as much of a problem for democracy - even in highly mobilized polities like Bolivia - as a lack of faith in elections, offer new and vital insights. The book is original, crisply written, and extremely clever in how it teases important interpretations out of apparently innocuous data. It will be of great interest to scholars of democratization, development, social movements, political institutions and Latin American politics, as well as anyone interested in mixing methods, maximizing their field research and explicitly addressing underspecified but real tensions between democracy and participation.' Todd Eisenstadt, American University, Washington DC 'Boulding has written an impressive and important book that offers a new way of understanding the role NGOs play in promoting political participation and political stability in young democracies. It weaves together rich empirical evidence from Bolivia, Latin America, and cross-national surveys to show that protests need not undermine weak democracies, but can strengthen them by giving citizens meaningful ways to express their grievances. This emphasis on contentious politics will energize a literature that tends to focus narrowly on voting and electoral politics.' Claudio A. Holzner, University of Utah 'From Tocqueville to Huntington to Putnam, civil society's role in supporting democracy has been debated. In an impressive debut, Carew Boulding marshals a dazzling array of data ranging from the sub-national level in Bolivia to cross-national surveys to show that NGOs facilitate both voting and protest because, fundamentally, they facilitate citizen collective action to hold leaders accountable. Her book transforms the terrain for future scholarship on civil society.' Irfan Nooruddin, Georgetown University, Washington DC
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Table of contents

1. Introduction; 2. NGOs, mobilization, participation, and democracy; 3. Local NGO activity and its consequences in Bolivian municipalities; 4. NGOs, associations, protest, and voting in Latin America; 5. Associational activity and participation in developing democracies; 6. Civil society, protest, and attitudes toward democracy; 7. Conclusions: articulating democratic discontent.
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About Carew Boulding

Carew Boulding is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She received her PhD in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego. Boulding's research focuses on how democracy works in younger democracies. She has published research on political participation, participatory budgeting, attitudes toward democracy, and government accountability. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, World Development, the Latin American Research Review, Party Politics, and Studies in Comparative International Development.
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