Social Movements and Global Civil Society

Ronnie D. Lipschutz and Corina McKendry

in The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199566600
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Social Movements and Global Civil Society


Even as international climate change negotiations became bogged down over the decade leading up to the Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen in 2009, the global public has shown a growing interest in addressing the issue, with activism arising in many places and among many thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social movement organizations (SMOs) and most importantly civil society activists. This article examines what those actors do; it offers some speculative ideas about why they are doing it, beyond the usual appeals to self-interest and norms. This article begins with a general discussion of non-state environmental activism focused on climate change, as it has grown in scope and quantity since the 1970s. It then turns to theoretical explanations of this growth, briefly addressing both instrumental and structural accounts. Furthermore, it describes several examples of NGO activism in the realm of climate change, focusing on the Climate Action Network (CAN).

Keywords: social movements; global civil society; Climate Action Network; non-state environmental activism; social movement organizations

Article.  7381 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Public Policy

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