NGOs, Political Protest, and Civil Society

Amanda Murdie, University of Missourimurdie_amanda

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are proliferating. How do they affect political participation in developing democracies? In NGOs, Political Protest, and Civil Society, Carew Boulding masterfully argues that NGOs, even those organizations without a specific political agenda, can heighten political participation in new democracies. In developing democracies with high quality electoral institutions, NGOs are likely to increase voter turnout. As the quality of electoral institutions decline, NGOs play a role in increasing political protest. Challenging canonical arguments by Samuel P. Huntington (Political Order in Changing Societies, 1968) about the dangerous nature of civil society in developing countries, Boulding sees NGOs as not encouraging or increasing antidemocratic attitudes in most states, even if contentious political behavior is heightened as a result of NGO involvement. However, unlike the more dominant view of civil society as the panacea for democracy promotion (e.g., see Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work, 1994), Boulding also stresses how important the pre-existing democratic institutions are in conditioning the effects of NGOs in developing states. In short, NGO involvement in a country can have powerful effects on political participation; the nature of these effects are conditional on the quality of electoral institutions within the state where the NGO is operating.

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Perspectives on Politics / Volume 14 / Issue 01 / March 2016, pp 181-182
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016