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Unit information: Global Civil Society in 2015/16

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Unit name Global Civil Society
Unit code SPAIM0019
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Perez-Solorzano Borragan
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit studies the role of civil society in global governance by, analysing the normative democratic added value of civil society organisations in contributing to democracy through their interaction with governance institutions within and above the state. Drawing on alternative theories of democracy and existing empirical evidence, the unit assesses the promises and pitfalls of this vision. Additionally the unit studies the institutional arrangements available for civil society participation in global governance with a focus on the mechanisms to ensure transparency, accountability and representation. The unit also assesses the sources of legitimacy of civil society actors, with a focus on their ability to facilitate the participation and empowerment of marginalized groups, their financial and political independence and the increasing tension between professionalization and constituency representation.

The unit aims to allow students to develop an understanding of what civil society is and what it is not; how it is organised; how it relates to global governance; how it engages in policy-making; and what role it may play in fostering good governance. Students will become familiar with key debates drawn for the academic literature and relevant case-studies. Students will engage critically with these debates and seek to identify their own position and viewpoints within those debates

Intended Learning Outcomes

After completing this units students will have acquired:

  1. Advanced knowledge and comprehension of the dynamics that shape the interaction between civil society and global governance;
  2. The ability to critically evaluate the relationships between civil society, legitimacy, participation and transparency;
  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate patterns of civil society participation in different international organisations;
  4. The ability to apply concepts and ideas drawn from theoretical arguments to empirical materials;
  5. The ability to synthesise and evaluate arguments drawn from the academic literature on this topic, in both oral and written form.

Teaching Information

Seminars. During the 2-hour seminars the weekly topic will be introduced by the seminar teacher and students will engage in intellectual discussion through individual presentations and by addressing the proposed issues for debate through selected exercises such as group work.

Assessment Information

Formative Assessment: Seminar Presentation (10 minutes) (learning outcomes 2, 4 and 5).

Summative Assessment: Essay (3,500 – 4,000 words in length) 100% of mark. A candidate cannot write an assessed essay on the same topic as a seminar presentation (learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5).

Reading and References

  • Jobert, B. and Kohler-Koch, B. (eds.) (2008) Changing Images of Civil Society. From Protest to Governance: Routledge, Abingdon.
  • Collingwood, V. (2006) ‘Non-Governmental Organisations, Power and Legitimacy in International Society’: Review of International Studies 32, pp. 439-454.
  • Smismans, S. (ed.) (2006): Civil Society and Legitimate European Governance: Edward Elgar.
  • Encarnación, O.M. (2000) ‘Tocqueville's Missionaries: Civil Society Advocacy and the Promotion of Democracy: World Policy Journal, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 9-18.
  • Brown, C. (2000). ‘Cosmopolitanism, World Citizenship, and Global Civil Society’. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 3: 7–26.
  • Castells, M. (2008) ‘The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks, and Global Governance’: The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 616, no. 1, pp. 78-93