International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought

A new article:

European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 14, No. 2, 231-258 (2008)
DOI: 10.1177/1354066108089242
© 2008 European Consortium for Political Research, SAGE Publications

Reframing NGOs: The Identity of an International Relations Non-Starter
Norbert Götz
University of Helsinki, Finland

In this article I aim to provide a better understanding of the concept `non-governmental organization' and its implications for the politics of international relations. As the prevailing confusion about the term stems largely from poor knowledge about the politics behind its introduction and function, the overarching question asks how NGOs have been socially constructed as actors on the margins of the international stage. To this end, a sound insight into the little-known conceptual history and background of the term `NGO' in what might be called a `Westphalian nomenclature' is given. I suggest that the still prevalent NGO terminology is an outcome of political games played by various actors, restricting and containing the signified organizations. The article provides a non-substantial, functional and politics-oriented definition of the term NGO, which differs significantly from previous attempts to attach meaning to it. It also suggests improved choices of terminology for general International Relations

Key Words: associations . civil society . conceptual history . IR theory . linguistic turn . NGOs . United Nations

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