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Fr. Césaro-papisme

→ International association, civil society, nonstate actors, NGO, clash of civilizations

This term refers to a political system in which the political authorities are also the head of the Orthodox Church, initially in the Roman/Byzantine Empire, and supreme judge in religious matters. The emperor, or head of state today, extends his own power to ecclesiastical and theological matters, appoints bishops and the Eastern Patriarch and controls liturgical practices and clergy appointments. The system is most frequently associated with the late Roman, or Byzantine, Empire, when the emperor had complete control over the Orthodox Greek Church. Most modern historians recognize that the legal Byzantine texts speak of interdependence between the imperial and ecclesiastical structures rather than of a unilateral dependence of the latter; historians believe also that there was nothing in the Byzantine understanding of the Christian faith that would recognize the emperor as either doctrinally infallible or invested with priestly powers. Many historical instances of direct imperial pressure on the church ended in failure, e.g., the attempt of Zeno (474–491) and Anastasius I (491–518) in favour of monophysitism, and the efforts of Michael VIII Palaeologus (1259–82) in favour of union with Rome. John Chrysostom and most other authoritative Byzantine theologians denied imperial power over the church.

It was normal practice, however, for the Eastern Roman emperor to act as the protector of the universal church and as the manager of its administrative affairs. Eusebius of Caesarea called Constantine “the overseer of external” (as opposed to spiritual) church problems (episkopos ton ektos). Emperors presided over councils, and their will was decisive in the appointment of patriarchs and in determining the territorial limits of their jurisdiction. Emperor Justinian I, in the preface to his Novella 6 (535), described the ideal relation between the sacerdotium and the imperium as a “symphony,” an essentially dynamic and moral interpretation of church-state relations that did allow numerous abuses but was hardly a submission of the church to the state. Some historians (Gregory 2010) assert that caesaropapism never implied that emperors had the authority over the church as the pope, the bishop of Rome, did in the west. Despite the power of the emperor, he did not have complete control over the church, as the word implies. He was not pope and emperor of the Orthodox Church.

Caesaropapism was more a reality in Russia, where the abuses of Ivan IV the Terrible went practically unopposed and where Peter the Great finally transformed the church into a department of the state in 1721, although neither claimed to possess special doctrinal authority. In Russia and in Greece, the Orthodox Church has maintained the caesaro-papism legacy, where religion and politics are strongly intertwined.  

The concept of caesaropapism has also been applied in Western Christendom—for example, to the reign of Henry VIII in England, as well as to the principle cujus regio, ejus religio (“religion follows the sovereign”), which prevailed in Germany after the Reformation. In Scandinavia, Lutheranism was imposed as the dominant religion and promoted the establishment of national churches subordinate to the state. The Danish constitution designates the Lutheran Evangelical Church as the national church. Parliament is its legislative head, and the minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs its administrative authority. The state’s moral supremacy implies that the monarch must be a member that church. In Norway, Parliament confirmed in 1981 that the Norwegian Church was the official church headed by the King, whose authority is exerted only through those Council of State’s members who are baptized members of the Church. This means that the Church is directed not as a secular state, but by a head of state belonging to the Lutheran community. Laws about the Church go through Parliament, whose members belong to the Norwegian Church in their majority, and its administration depends on the Royal Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs. However, Stortinget passed a new bill in 2016 that establishes the Church of Norway as an independent legal entity rather than a branch of the civil service, so that it officially ceased to be the state church on January 1, 2017. In Sweden, the 1809 Constitution requires both the King and members of government to belong to the Church of Sweden. In 1810 the Riksdag elected Bernadotte, Napoleon’s Marshal, as King Charles XIII’s presumprive heir because he was childless and there was no heir to the throne. Bernadotte had to abjure his catholic faith and adopted his new country’faith to be crowned as Charles XIV in 1818. The current Church of Sweden is administered by a synodal structure, which elects bishops to be appointed by the government, the Archbishop of Uppsala being “primus inter pares”. Since 2000, the church of Sweden has no longer been an established institution but a faith community.

It should not be concluded from these remarks that interdependence between the religious and political spheres is absent from other cultures. In Thailand, the constitution relies on the three pillars of nation, monarchy and Buddhism, which sticks to politics. In neighbouring Burma, Buddhism has turned to be a central ingredient of nationalism. However, the countries where secular states and political secularism are most affected are undoubtedly those with a Muslim majority. The institutional supremacy of religious law over civil law was first illustrated by the decision of Saudi Arabia not to sign the UN declaration of Human Rights in 1948, arguing that it violated Islamic law. Since then, secular states and political secularism have been severely undermined, in particular with the establishment of the first modern theocracy in 1979 in Iran. By the late 1980s, Islamic political movements had emerged in Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Indonesia. Pakistan, whose partition from India was based on exclusively religious principles, established the Sunni sect as the virtually dominant denomination. This has proved to be disastrous even to Muslim minorities, among which Ahmedis have been deemed non-Muslim and therefore convicted for calling themselves Muslims or using the word ‘mosque’ to designate their place of worship (Bhargava 2011).

In 1990, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, adopted at the Nineteenth Conference of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) by its 45 member states (among which Turkey, whose constitution was said to be secular) and published by the UN as one of the regional instrument in 1997, reaffirmed the supremacy of religious law. It says that “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah” (Art. 24), and “The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration” (Art. 25). This declaration questions the very concept of the universality of human rights or, in other words, affirms an alternative view of universality based on religious principles.


Paul Ghils, “INGOs in the international system”, International Social Science Journal, 1992

Deno John Geanakoplos, Byzantium: Church, Society, and Civilization Seen through Contemporary Eyes,The University of Chicago Press, 1986

Timothy E. Gregory, A History of Byzantium (2nd Ed.), London: Blackwell, 2010 [2005]

 Rajeev Bhargava, “States, religious diversity, and the crisis of secularism”, OpenDemocracy, 22nd March 2011

Fr. Califat

→ City, community, confederalism, empire, federalism, ummah

Transliterated from Arabic khalifah, the muslim viceregency of man on earth or succession to the Prophet Mahomed.

The Muslim califat is one example of a polity reemerging after it had apparently disappeared, until its latest resurrection as the Islamic State (IS). From the time Muhammad and his followers withdrew from Mecca to form their own political community, Islamic governments ruled states that ranged from towns to empires until the Ottoman Empire’s Anatolian rump eventually became the Turkish Republic, declared itself secular and abolished the caliphate in 1924. A first attempt to re-establish the califat by 2020 had been announced by Al Qaeda, then put into practice by IS. Dreams of empire-building has always been associated with radical islam as a universal religion, which today recruits tens of thousands of fighters from tens of countries, across ethnic and linguistic boundaries. Born as a local movement, it has rapidly extended its appeal among mostly Sunni supporters, to reach the status of both a transnational, extra-territorial network and a self-proclaimed territorial state. Rooted in a traditional doctrine going back to the military « migration » from Mecca to Medine, it has absorbed the contemporary approach of realpolitik, supported by an efficient propaganda and led by a magis­terial authority based in a literal reading of the Coran. In any case, its ideology is far more communitarian than universalist: even though Islam grants the dhimma status to the "people of the Book" (Jews and Christians), which is supposed to protect them and does not force them to convert, this status excludes equality with Muslims, because "... these are subjected to fiscal, civil and legal discrimination (...) ; they must live in closed quarters, use only donkeys as mounts, have houses lower than those of Muslims, move away before them in the street; before the courts, their testimony is null and void..." (Perez 2018, 122).

According to the UN report, more than half the countries in the world are currently generating foreign terrorist fighters. Among the various Al-Qaida (QDe.004) associates around the world, including the splinter group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (listed as Al-Qaida in Iraq under QDe.115), there are more than 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters involved, travelling from more than 100 Member States. The rate of flow is higher than ever and mainly focused on movement into the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq, with a growing problem also evident in Libya.

Such individuals and their networks pose an immediate and long-term threat. Those that have returned or will return to their States of origin or to third countries may pose a continuing threat to national and international security. Many may reintegrate, abandoning violence. Some have already gone on to organize further terrorist attacks and others will do so in the future.

The emergence of the Islamic State (IS) is the latest revival of the “restored Caliphate” since the formal abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate by Kemal Atatürk in 1924. The appeal made by Baghdadi and his followers for a transnational body that stands above the various tribes or communities making up the Muslim world. They had achieved impressive results in 2016, with pledges of allegiance (bayat) from militants in places as far removed from one another as Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen, and in Libya ISIS now has an airbase in Sirte, the hometown of former leader Muammar Qaddafi.

John M. Owen IV, “From Calvin to the Caliphate. What Europe’s Wars of Religion Tell Us About the Modern Middle East”, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2015

Irnerio Seminatore, « Islam and Occident. Two incompatible civilizations », Institut Européen des Relations Internationales ((IERI), 31/1/2015

Richard Haass, « The new Thirty Years’ War », Project Syndicate, July 21, 2014

Abdel Bari Atwan, Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate, London: Saqi, and University of California Press, 2015

Marcin Styszynski, “The Islamic State’s use of Muslim rhetoric for communication”, Cosmospolis, 2015/2

Perez Joseph, Andalousie, vérités et légendes, Paris: Tallandier, 2018 






Fr. Société civile

Esp. Sociedad civil

→ Association, charity, foundation, international nongovernmental organisation, PVO, third sector, voluntary associations

A key concept of contemporary political thought, “civil society” (CS) is commonly considered as contributing to the democratizing of the international community. Whether this term refers to new phenomena or to underlying strata of Western history, it has come to include many social forms inspired by the pursuit of liberal values such as individual freedom, social pluralism, and democratic citizenship. Its contemporary meaning underlies conventional oppositions between state and non-state, public and private, religious and secular, for-profit and non-profit, even though these distinctions are no longer sufficient to define its contents.

 A polysemous term

A working definition is given by the Centre for Civil Society of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE, which closed in September 2010): “Civil society refers to the set of institutions, organisations and behaviour situated between the state, the business world, and the family. Specifically, this includes voluntary and non-profit organisations of many different kinds, philanthropic institutions, social and political movements, other forms of social participation and engagement and the values and cultural patterns associated with them.” Another definition is given by the Civil Society Glossary of the Mihan Foundation, as “an association or other nonprofit organization formed voluntarily by members of the general public to represent the interests of specific groups or the public at large”, adding that, like other associations, it can be informal or officially registered.

A broader definition is to see CS as the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice the boundaries between state, CS, family and market are complex, blurred or negotiated. The term embraces a diversity of times and spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. It covers organisations such as registered charities, development nongovernmental organisations, community groups, women's organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups.

Specific criteria of a functional definition include the economic aspect, the legal status and the purposes of the organization, to which can be added its cultural features. Its economic aspect refers to its financial resources (member fees, state subsidies, private donations) and organizational structure, its legal form, statutes or constitution (association, foundation, cooperative, international NGO). The Civil Society Index established by CIVICUS assesses four dimensions of civil society: structure, space/environment, values and impact. In a similar way, a neo-Gramscian view is given by Victor Pérez-Diaz (1998, 220): “ … an ideal type referring to a set of political and social institutions, characterized by limited, responsible government subject to the rule of law, free and open markets, a plurality of voluntary associations and a sphere of free public debate. The European situation only partly corresponds to the ideal type; but sufficiently so in order for its application to be of some value.”

More recently, a distinction has been made within civil society between social movements (based upon informal alliances), and (more formally established) NGOs. This is a difficult distinction to sustain because social movements also include NGOs and trade unions, and because the definition of NGO themselves is very fluid. It is perhaps more useful to identify that part of civil society, which has begun to structure itself and to work in alliances, federations or networks. This “organised civil society’” is a new departure and is fast becoming an important aspect of the national, regional and global scene. Often making alliances with political groups, officials, trade unions and other actors, organised civil society has become an effective and influential component of the political landscape. As a matter of fact, institutionalism is an essential element, a basic feature of any civilized societal formation, even though it is noteworthy that the some societies lack the institutionalism that is based on liberal contract relation under the law, such as traditional forms of associational life (Bratton 1989).

Obviously, the blame should not be put on such and such definitions, concepts or terms, but on the non-recognition of the fuzzy, loose and changing relationships between observed or perceived data and available descriptive patterns in various periods and contexts. The boundaries between categories of actors (states, market, CSOs) are moving, insofar as most CS entities depend on subsidies, subventions, grants, low-interest loans and services provided by the state (Mosher 2002, 219); democracies cannot survive without a healthy CS; an excessive deregulation of the market economy leads to a retreat of the state, societal fragmentation, social conflicts and a declining sense of social/communal belonging; changing territories identified with moving political units; some ethnic groups have risen to statehood, while states of the past may have been absorbed into wider units. Additionally, the territorial criterion depends on geopolitical units (states) as well as non-territorial depictions (religions and secular ideologies).

Alternative forms of civil society?

Researchers have looked for equivalent social forms in non-Western ethical traditions, which may agree or disagree on how to define civil society's interpretations, how to evaluate its cultural or universal background, and how these traditions respond to ethical pluralism within societies (Chambers and Kymlicka 2011). An essential component of civil society in Western societies, regardless of how it is understood, is the idea and principle of secular politics taken as distinct from the state. Church and state have gradually evolved as separate entities after the end of the Middle Ages, when European princes dictated the religious beliefs of his subjects. The sectarian conflicts following the Reformation led to more than a century of bloody warfare until the Westphalian treaties realized the separation between religious and political authorities. This means that modern secular politics did not spring automatically from Christian culture, but rather was something that had to be learned through painful historical experience. Even in the midst of the Spanish conquest of America, which was inspired as much by religious zealotry as greed for space and gold, Las Casas’s laudable efforts to make room for the native Americans in a broader notion of humanity should be understood as a process of restoring a focus on human potential and its diverse expressions, rather than as a covert attempt to impose a particular standard on foreigners as a price of their participation in the community.

A later dimension of human freedom is rooted in the achievements of early modern liberalism, which succeeded in persuading people to exclude the final ends addressed by religion from the realm of politics. This autonomy was certainly not complete, as the demise of civil society was declared by Hegel (1837), who considered that his philosophical idealism placed his elevated spiritual subjectivity into a universal goal or telos for all humankind, realizing the final accomplishment of the State in the spirit, here understood as “the perfect and absolute religion, in which is revealed what spirit is, what God is. That is the Christian religion”. For early modern thinkers, there was no distinction between civil society and the state. Civil society was a type of state characterized by a social contract, a society governed by laws, based on the principle of equality before the law, in which everyone (including the ruler, at least in the Lockean conception) was subject to the law; in other words, a social contract agreed among the individual members of society. It was not until the nineteenth century that civil society became understood as something distinct from the state, when Hegel defined civil society as the intermediate realm between the family and the state, where the individual becomes a public person and, through membership in various institutions, is able to reconcile the particular and the universal. For Hegel, civil society was “the achievement of the modern world – the territory of mediation where there is free play for every idiosyncrasy, every talent, every accident of birth and fortune and where waves of passion gust forth, regulated only by reason glinting through them”. His definition of a CS including the economy was to be taken up by Marx and Engels, who saw civil society as the “theatre of history”.

If we take such a common defining feature as secularism, it appears that secular politics is not limited to Western civilisation. Without going back to the Indian lokayata or carvaka system of philosophy (a method of worldly or empirical investigation), Amartya Sen recalls that Akbar, the Mogul emperor of India (1556-1605), was well aware of the coexistence of many religious denominations (Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Parsees, Jews, and others), and laid the foundations of secularism in multicultural India. This policy was understood as the religious neutrality of the state, which he insisted must ensure that ‘no man should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that pleases him.’ Sen also remarks that Akbar’s thesis was ‘the pursuit of reason’ rather than ‘reliance on tradition’. This tradition can be traced back to the structure of the ancient Indian society, where the Brahmin varna (caste) had no monopoly of the religious function or religious power, in contrast with Christian priests (Angot 2013). Brahmins’statute does not allow them to access political or economic powers. In this regard, they differed from the mandarins, who administered the Chinese empire. The priests, however, had no autonomous, coporate power and were entirely subservient to the state, i.e. the emperor. In a way, this is equivalent to the caesaropapist system familiar to orthodox societies in Eastern Europe. In India, the Brahmins were a separate varna which had moral authority but was independent of political rule. Kings were dependent of law made by the political power, contrary to the Chinese imperial makers of law. From this regard, India is more similar to Europ than China, as there was “a germ of something that could be called the rule of law that would limit the power of secular oilitical authority” (Fukuyama 2011, 152). Interestingly, the same comparison can be made between India and Europe in that both areas were seldom ruled by a united imperial power, but rather constituted into “warring states” whose competition undemined any attempt to sustainable unity (Baeschler 2002, 2012). However, the two continents may have been diverging recently with regard to tolerance and secularism. Although the right to freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution, the 1947 partition has been followed by recurrences of religious violence and the inclusion of restrictive provisions in law, which criminalize obscenity and religious offenses. Worse still, India was the first country in 1988 to ban Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, under a government led by the professedly secular Congress. Three decades later, Rushdie voiced concern about the “real grave danger” to discuss ideas freely in India under Modi’s leadership (Seervai 2016). This a far cry from ancient India, which recognized a clear separation between the realms of religion (dharma) and politics (artha), as in Kautilya's Arthashastra in particular, one of the major treatises of the ancient world on the art of government. This work is close to the thinking of Machiavelli and Hobbes, shot through with cold realism and devoid of moralizing considerations. Even more significant is the concept of anviksiki, the discipline of critical inquiry, of which samkhya, yoga and lokayata are listed as the principal divisions. Kautilya rejects explicitly the claim of Manu and others that the study of critical reasoning is tied exclusively to a religious study of the self and its liberation (atmavidya), and understands that critical inquiry is an autonomous discipline (1.2.11). "Investigating by means of reasons, good and evil in the Vedic religion, profit and loss in the field of trade and agriculture, and prudent and imprudent policy in political administration, as well as their relative strengths and weaknesses, the study of critical inquiry (anviksiki) confers benefit on people, keeps their minds steady in adversity and in prosperity, and produces adeptness of understanding, speech and action." (Ganieri 2001, 8) 

To take another cultural area, it is striking to hear Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a founder and director of the first civil society centre in the Arab word, saying in 2002 that “I believe that the members of this honourable Court who are over forty-five will remember that fifteen years ago they never heard the phrase ‘civil society’. This was not an expression used in spoken Egyptian or the Arabic language before the establishment of Ibn Khaldoun Centre”. As a CS activist, Dr. Ibrahim was sentenced and taken away to jail under the State Emergency Law. He had been accused, among other allegations, to have received foreign funding without permission of the authorities and to disseminate false information that damages Egypt's national interest. At least eight other staff members of the Ibn Khaldoun Centre were also arrested and the files were confiscated.

A further extension into the religious dimension of the Arab world would be even more problematic, considering that faith-based organisations are usually included into CS: many of them are not based on voluntary or revocable memberships (leaving the Islamic religion is forbidden), and perform the same functions as states in more secular societies: satisfying the need for sociality, transmitting moral values and the accepted behaviour in society, solving problems of collective action and acting as vehicles for specific aspirations. Because this separation has never been considered as a fundamental principle in Islam, all the talk about an emerging civil society in Iran, for example, does not mean it is beyond the supreme power of religion, in a country considered as the most Islamic state of all Muslim countries. In Arab countries, mujtama' madani (from Arabic madinah, “city”) commonly refers to the CS concept. Muslim-majority societies avoid the term mujtama' 'ilmani (“secular society”), due to its atheist connnotation. Muslims usually understand secularism as a rejection of religion-based laws, because laws would then be conceived by humans and not by a reference to religion or God’s will. Mujtama' 'ilmani would be understood as opposed to mujtama' dini (“religious society”). Arab Christian communities will preferably use the term mujtama' madani, so as not to annoy Muslim religious people (Abu Salieh 2006). Up to now, speakers hesitate between the two terms, mujtama' 'ilmani or mujtama' madani. From a theological and legal standpoint, sharia law covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assuming people are born into their parents’ religion. It finds the ex-Muslims atheists of being guilty of apostasy, a crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol, which eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan, punish with the death penalty. The Economist (2012) cites a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Centre, an American think-tank, which found that 84% of Muslims in Egypt and 86% in Jordan backed the death penalty for apostates, compared with 51% in Nigeria and 30% in Indonesia. It seems hard to deny that these figures reflect an unpleasant side of civil society feelings, which are not limited to the domestic sphere as they gain a strong international support from the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam adopted by the then 45 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which disagrees with the fundamental principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although its significance was interpreted on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2007, by the Ambassador of Pakistan addressing the Human Rights Council on behalf of the OIC “not as an alternative, competing worldview on human rights”, but as a declaration that “…complements the Universal Declaration as it addresses religious and cultural specificity of the Muslim countries” (UN A/HRC/7/NGO/96, 2008), its ideological content clearly contradicts the universal character of the UN Declaration. Among the many clauses that limit universal rights, articles 24 and 25 of the Cairo Declaration are particularly clear: “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah”, and: “The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration”. As to article 19, it needs no comment: "... there are no other crimes or punishments than those mentioned in the sharia, which include corporal punishment (whipping, amputation) and capital punishment by stoning or decapitation. The right to hold public office can only be exercised in accordance with the sharia."

Of particular significance is the opinion of the Council of Europe about Islam calls for Sharia Law to supersede Civil Laws. On July 2001, the European Court of Human Rights determined that “the institution of Sharia law and a theocratic regime were incompatible with the requirements of a democratic society.” In February 2003 (judgment on applications 41340/98, 41342/98, 41343/98 and 41344/98), the Court ruled that Islamic Sharia law is “incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy.” The Court said that a legal system based on Sharia law “would diverge from the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly with regard to the rules on the status of women, and its intervention in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts”. Since then, the Court has consistently ruled that sharia law is not compatible with the fundamental principles of democracy, as set forth in the Convention.

A loose notion

Theorising civil society consequently as the realm of free associational life, free thinking and cultural pluralism is not as easy as it appears at first glance, and Mary Kaldor's optimistic view (2011) that “Just as the East European intellectuals gave new meaning to the term civil society, so the protestors in Egypt are showing that civil society can bring together Islamists and secularists and that no culture has a monopoly on human values” does not take into account the varying and unequal resources that different societies can draw from their respective political traditions. The same goes for a hypothetical Iranian CS, which the outside world thought could be equated with the "Prague Spring" when it unsuccessfully defied its repressive clerical leaders in 1997. The Iranian revolution, it should be remembered, was warmly supported by a popular movement which violently suppressed any emerging secularism (Nasr 2016, 211-226). 

If we except the peculiar meaning of “civil state” understood as the body of citizens not included under the military or religious authorities, the etymology of CS, if not its concrete social and political expressions, can be traced back to ancient Greece, but its contemporary implications, in a broad sense, did not emerged until the 18th-century Enlightenment thought, and took new turns in the 19th and 20th centuries. The concept has altered with Roman, Liberal, Hegelian, Marxist, Gramscian and postmodern interpretations. It was resurrected, first by the so-called “new social movements” that developed after 1968 to fight for non-partisan causes related to peace, women, human rights, the environment and North-South relations, then in 1989 and the 1990s with the fall of the inflated state sectors in central and Eastern Europe, and finally with the tragic “Arab Spring” that spread across the Middle East in early 2011, before brutal regimes were either replaced by even more brutal regimes, or gave way to political chaos, with the notable exception of Tunisia.

The Arab uprisings had been preceded by the Iranian Revolution against the Pahlavi dynasty under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. It was triggered in October 1977 by a civil resistance led by both secular and religious elements, leftist and Islamist organizations, worker and student movements, which spread across the country in 1978 with strikes and demonstrations that paralyzed the economic and political life. Howeber, its secular and socialist components were quickly overwhelmed by the Islamic, anti-western movement so that, of the states that emerged from the twentieth century’s three great revolutions – Russia in 1917, China in 1949, and Iran in 1979 – the latter is the only regressive development. The Persian monarchy was eventually replaced with a Shia theocracy named “Islamic Republic” under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This version of CS is characterized by a strongly dominant religious stratum superimposed on the state and political institutions and was led by Khomeini as a follower of the Shi'a Imam Husayn ibn Ali, and the Shah as Husayn's foe, the tyrant Yazid I. Clerics determine the existing order under the final say of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei since Khomeini’s death in 1989. The election of Hassan Rohani in 2017 does not introduce significant changes, as this country is a signatory of the 1990 Cairo declaration and the new president is hierachically subordinated to the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said in 2005 that the call to murder (fatwa) issued to kill the British novelist Salman Rushdie, along with "anyone involved with its [novel's] publication" (publishers, translators, etc.) still stands. In 2016, fourty state-run Iranian media outlets had jointly offered a new $600,000 bounty for the death of Rushdie, according to the official Fars News agency, closely affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The fatwa has never officially been lifted (The Independent, 21 Feb. 2016).

These developments, which combine political, national, communitarian, religious or social ingredients, are often associated by social and political scientists with a political myth in so far as, rather than corresponding to a concept or an idea, CS refers to a set of positive values. These are identified as individual autonomy, social responsibility, group solidarity, ideological activism, religious proselitism or emancipation from gender stereotypes, while obviously CS can as well be permeated by socially conservative and politically authoritarian values. All of these criteria may redefine the pairing of the CS dimension and state powers according to CS’s own internal logic, its own economic, cultural, political, ideological or cognitive dynamics and the interests at stake. In addition, and above all today, they have gradually acquired an international, actually a transnational dimension that has contributed to the idea of an international civil society (Ghils 1992), or even of a “global civil society”, a neologism that appeared in the 1990s (Keane 2003) and obviously would exclude huge parts of CS where its basic values are not shared.

The international sphere

Kant was the last major philosopher to advocate a universal human community within a cosmopolitical order that would be realized through a confederation of states. Later, Hegel returned to nationalist particularities, contending that the end of History would arrive when humans had achieved the kind of civilisation that satisfied their fundamental longings. Not only did he think that the end-point was the constitutional state, but also that Christianity, as a religion developed from the path of Greco-Roman civilization, was the highest form of religion the world would ever produce. In his studies of the history of philosophy and religion, Hegel rejected as underdeveloped or primitive (or “Indian”) the notion of a pre-conceptual being or a background that cannot be rendered accessible and transparent to reason or rational subjectivity (Hegel 1885, chap. I, Halbfass 1988, 84-99).

One recent development of the idea of CS is that it has migrated from the familiar sphere of local players into the international sphere. As in the local sphere, it intends to reshape the multi-dimensional interaction with states and interstate organizations through formal institutions or unofficial movements, or even to proclaim the end of the Westphalian system. Its polysemous usage however makes CS an inconvenient tool for a scientific analysis in IR if it does not adopt a cross-disciplinary approach to the complex variety of its normative, analytical and empirical dimensions. CS organisations can be international as opposed to transnational, oriented or not to trade activities. Amnesty International is a nonprofit making body, but so is the European Association of Car Makers even though its members are profit making companies. Urban authorities are official bodies, but the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) is an NGO, just like the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which is a collection of parliaments. Similar examples can be taken from other sectors: private sector firms appear under a nonprofit disguise when they are represented by business federations, industry lobbies, trades-related organizations or chambers of commerce. Families are conventionally not included into civil society, but family associations are genuine CS organizations. A well-known segment of CS is sports NGOs, among which FIFA has earned a disastrous reputation through genuinely transnational channels. Within the context of what has been called "power transnation and diffusion" (Jerabek 2017), FIFA has strengthed a real hegemony in the dispute between transnational and national law in sports,  actually through the overruling of national law in favour of transnational law, and by questionable bidding processes to host the games in Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022). Additionally, FIFA's behaviour is a clear illustration of porous links between two categories of international actors – states and INGOs – , and of the fuzzy boundary between them, as shown by the investigations into corruption at FIFA by the FBI and Swiss prosecutors, which also include the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

As to religious organizations, some of them refuse to be listed as international NGOs even though they are perfect examples of transnational bodies, with the apparent exception of the Holy See, which is both a state and the headquarters of a global religious body, i.e. an INGO. An extreme example is that of mafia networks and terrorist groups, which in a way are even more CS organizations in a primitive sense since they openly defy the states and other legally established bodies.

A tricky question raised by social scientists is related to Tönnies’s well-known distinction between Gemeinschaft and Geselschaft: are indigenous and ethnic communities actual associations or potential states? Before him, Locke had argued that indigenous peoples had no legitimate title to their land because they had no individual rights. Today, they have been granted an NGO consultative status with the UN, defending their claim to statehood at the same time. Other communities, like Roma/Romani, do not fit into territorial criteria and have always been transnational. Religious communities are even further away from territories, especially when they claim to be universal. Such contradictions are not unrelated to the Hobbesian idea of civil society, still accepted by the end of the 19th century, which distinguished between civilized and uncivilized peoples, as indigenous rights are often denied by another Hobbesian idea, that of territorial sovereignty.

True, some contemporary thinkers have conceived of a kind of a deterritorialized sovereignty defined in opposition of a state world order, in the same way as NGOs were defined in the UN Charter in opposition to UN member states. Significantly, the Council of Europe used to consider national minorities under the authority of particular states, and was unable to conceive of them as transnational communities.

As an extension of both official and unofficial networks across national borders, the latest understanding of the CS concept appeared with the idea of a “global civil society”, which has become popular in academic, policy and practitioner circles in recent decades, as a far echo of Kant’s evocation of a possible universal civil society in the early 19th century. Today, the term is understood as a non-state, non-market sphere destined to play a key role in another innovative framework known as “global governance”, a kind of “global associational revolution … under way around the world, a massive upsurge of organized private, voluntary activity in virtually every corner of the globe” (Salamon and Sokolowski 2004, 3). Critics would answer that, even though this project is a legitimate attempt from above, or from the the grassroots, to enforce a pluralist undertanding of the public sphere on a market-oriented, standardized globalization, these organisations are often unrepresentative and unaccountable non-state actors (Chandler 2004), and that the concept is devoid of theoretical and legal content due to the absence of any supranational polity with which it could be confronted. By contrast, a recent institutional development in the European context is illustrated by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which represents the “organized civil society”, whose consultation by the Commission or the Council is mandatory in certain cases, optional in others.

In the UN terminology, CS refers to the associations of citizens (outside their families, friends and businesses) entered into voluntarily to advance their interests, ideas and ideologies. The term does not include profit-making activity (the private sector) or governing (the public sector). Of particular relevance are mass organizations (peasants, women or retired people), trade unions, professional associations, social movements, indigenous peoples, religious and spiritual organizations, academe and public benefit non-governmental organizations. An increasing number of these are accredited with the UN and have regular meetings and events focused on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, 4,277 representatives of 864 NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC were accredited to the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), 9.5% more than in 2015. The number of accredited NGO representatives increased by 50% in the 2013-2017 period.

Generally, the term “civil society” mostly refers to a set of organizations, groupings and associations that are non-profit and non-governmental, whether formal or unformal, but it is sometimes applied also to political (parliamentarian associations, political parties) and private sector organizations (employers organizations, industrial associations, etc.), so much so that there is a danger of blurring the concept. This is why the Director-General of UNESCO emphasized the importance of the criteria ‘nongovernmental and non-profit’ in distinguishing civil society organizations from other actors, while NGOs in consultative status with the UN include the overlapping sectors of nonprofit, forprofit, political and ideological members of (I)NGOs. This difficulty is the unavoidable consequence of a methodology based on a single set of measuring criteria and the feeling that a clear-cut mapping of actors refers to a common, predefined “structure” of state/non-state relations under the all-embracing concept of “civil society”. Anthropologists, social scientists, historians and internationalists have amply demonstrated that this concept is not equally applicable to all cultures, states or histories, is open to alternative interpretations and needs to be redefined according to specific settings .

Another challenge to the idea of a “global village” is about values. First, some cultures and philosophies (hinduist, Buddhist, animist and others) are based on values that are not explicit or even implicitely found in the tenets of universal declarations on democracy, human rights or international cooperation. Second, values are somehow idealistically taken as necessarily positive, whereas the inclusive concept of CS more often than not implies violent action or totalitarian ideologies, whether based on secular or religious, political or communitarian aims. In other respects, the role played by civil society is sometimes questioned from within these organisations, whether in terms of effectiveness, official status or links wth states or for-profit non-state actors. In a way, the positive impacts of national/local CSOs are rightly emphasized if we contrast them with those of “global” CS which, despite the huge momentum brought by the spread of democracy in the 90s, has often been criticized for being increasingly alienated from grassroot concerns and citizen initiatives.

For a while, it seemed that doubts about the relevance of professional and business associations as a component of CS was compensated for by the recent notion of "corporate social responsibility", to be integrated in multinational firms strategies. Usually grounded on Universal Declarations and especially on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948, those strategies presuppose - rightly or wrongly - that this declaration promotes universal values.

 International/transnational initiatives

Finally, mixed actors have gained significant importance in recent years, particularly multistakeholder initiatives (MSIs) such as certification schemes (International Standardization Oorganization), the UN Global Compact (encouraging companies to stick to nine principles derived from international labour, environmental and human rights law), the Global Reporting Initiative (to improve management, monitoring and reporting systems, as well as learning through stakeholder engagement) or Global and framework agreements between TNCs and international trade union organizations. Many MSIs assume the organizational form of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and have been somewhat successful in addressing weaknesses associated with corporate self-regulation with positive implications in terms of democratic global governance, although questions arise regarding the accountability, legitimacy and credibility of some MSIs and the NGOs with a dominant position and their close association with the corporations they seek to regulate. These dichotomies illustrate the conventional opposition between state and non-state bodies, governments and non-governments, community and society, secular and religious, free modern associations and ascribed, traditional associational structures.

On a global and especially European level, public opinion has emerged as the latest side of CS, as a powerful force generating a public space where the association of citizens can express common or antagonistic concerns that may influence the course of contemporary political affairs through dialogue or confrontation.

The Cotonou Agreement between African Caribbean and Pacific countries and the European Union Agreement was one of the first international treaties that refer to CS. The document divides non-state actors into three categories: the private sector, the economic and social partners, including trade unions, and civil society organisations in all its forms (Title 1, Article 6). This definition regroups a wide range of organisations with different constituencies and interests, and includes NGOs engaged in humanitarian and development assistance, social service provision, to voluntary organisations of citizens, bringing together, for example, indigenous communities, women, workers, or farmers. The EU’s Economic and Social Committee attempted to draw a distinction between those associations who provide services and those who are involved in lobbying and advocacy work, but this did not receive much favour as most organisations consider lobbying and advocacy and the provision of practical resources to be two sides of the same coin.

One of the safeguards of CS is the presence of a legal framework, clear and precise enough to allow its institutions to exist, to function properly, efficiently and independently and to allow the outside world to know, identify and understand them. In a contribution to the Festschrift Cremona, Frits Hondius examined to what extent CS is a legally well-defined category. Examples are taken from the Western confines of Europe, the Republic of Ireland, whose 1938 Constitution refers to CS as a value and a standard, which Ireland owes to its founding father Eamon de Valera. The 1938 constellation was the political situation of Europe with the Spanish Civil War raging and World War II looming. De Valera cautioned his fellow citizens to steer clear of any extremism, whether left or right, religious, political or other, and to exercise their rights in harmony with the CS. It would be half a century before the notion of CS was again addressed as a basic constitutional principle in Eastern Europe, with the leaders of Solidarnosc in Poland.

A further extension of the recognition of CS was planned in the draft constitutional treaty of the European Union, a unique feature among European constitutions in including an article on participatory democracy, one in which the role of organised CS interests is central. While the structural problems identified in relation with the input legitimacy seemed unsurmountable and the constitution was actually rejected, the extent to which the EU sought to achieve it was impressive.

Sami Aldeeb Abu Sahlieh, Introduction à la société musulmane. Fondements, sources, principes, Eyrolles, 2006

Michael Bratton, “Beyond the State: Civil Society and Associational Life in Africa", World Politics, April 1989

Jean Baeschler, Esquisse d’une histoire universelle, Fayard, 2002

Jean Baeschler, « Les ‘attracteurs planétaires’ et la mondialisation », communication à l’Académie des sciences morales et politiques, 17 décembre 2012

John Keane, Global Civil Society?, Cambridge: CUP, 2003

Francis Fukuyama, The Origin of Political Order. From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, Profile Books, 2011

Vali Nasr, the Shia revivial. How conflicts within Islam will Shape the Future, New York: Norton, 2016 

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, trans. T. M. Knox and A. V. Miller, Oxford: OUP, 1985 [1895]

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. Together with a Work on the Proofs of the Existence of God, transl. EB Speirs & J Burdon Sanderson, 1895

Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: an Essay in Understanding, State University of New York Press, 1988

“We the peoples: civil society, the United Nations and Global Governance”, report by the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations,

Frits W Hondius and Tymen J van der Ploeg, “Foundations”, in International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Volume XIII. Business and Private Organisations, Tübingen : Mohr Siebeck, 2000

Frits Hondius, “La reconnaissance et la protection des ONG en droit international”, Transnational Associations, 2/2000

Simone Chambers and Will Kymlicka (eds.), Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society, Princeton, 2001

Frits Hondius, “Law is like Music. The Legal Dimension of NGOs”, Transnational Associations, 2002/1

Mohamed Mokhtar Qandil , “The role of civil society organizations in the democratization in Egypt”, Modern Discussion.

Cotonou Agreements, Title 1, Article 6 of the Partnership between the ACP and the EU, 23 June 2000

Giampiero Alhadeff and Simon Wilson, “European Civil Society coming of age”, Global Policy Forum, 2002 Lester M. Salamon and S. Wojciech Sokolowski, Global Civil Society: an Overview, Kumarian Press/The Johns Hopkins University, 2004

David Chandler, Constructing global civil society: morality and power in international relations, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004

Jonardon Ganieri, Philosophy in Classical India. The proper work of reason, London: Routledge, 2001

Mary Kaldor, “The Idea of Global Civil Society”, International Affairs, May 2003

Mary Kaldor, “Civil Society in 1989 and 2011”, openDemocracy ( .

“Atheists and Islam”, The Economist, Nov. 24th, 2012.

Center for Inquiry International, “Islam & human rights. Defending Universality at the United Nations”, 2008

Centre for Civil Society (CCS) of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, Baltimore, USA

Civil society Glossary, Mihan Foundation.

Global Civil Society Yearbook, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), 2001-

UIA, Yearbook of International Organizations, München: Saur Verlag.

Mary Kaldor, Henrietta L. Moore and Sabine Selchow (Eds.), Global Civil Society 2012: Ten Years of Critical Reflection (Global Civil Society Yearbook), 2012

Alison Van Rooy, “The Civil Society Agenda: Switching Gears in the Post Cold War World”, International Studies Association Panel on Foreign Aid in the Post-Cold War Era, Toronto, 18-22 March 1997

Alejandro Colas, Internation Civil Society. Social Movements in World Politics, Cambridge: Polity, 2002

Charles Taylor, Liberal policies and the public sphere, Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1995

The Walt Whitman Center's Project on Global Civil Society.

Roger A. Lohmann, The Commons, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992

Paul Ghils, "De l'interétatique au transnational : les niveaux logiques de l'international", in René-Jean Dupuy (dir.), Les relations internationales à l'épreuve de la science politique, Paris : Economica, 1993

Paul Ghils, "Le concept et les notions de société civile", contribution to the research project organized by C. Villain-Gandossi and J. Berting on "The Role of Stereotypes in International Relations”, Equivalences, 1, 1995 and Transnational Associations, 3/1995

Paul Ghils, "Etude des termes et notions essentiels à la communication multilingue et multiculturelle", and "Recherche scientifique, plasticité et transdisciplinarité : une chaire transdisciplinaire possible dans les universités", with Mariana Thiérot Loisel, Marc-Williams Debono, Patrick Loisel and Ubiratan D’Ambrosio, in La Communauté de pratiques comme outil de dialogue interreligieux et interculturel, ed. by Silvia Guetta et Antonella Verdiani, Firenze University Press, Florence, 2011.

Paul Ghils, “Globalisation as a metonymy for the universal”, Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, 2010

Paul Ghils, “Transnational society as a reasonable Utopia for the 21st century,” in Transdisciplinarity Theory and Practice, Basarab Nicolescu (Ed.), California Institute of Integral Studies, Hampton Press, 2007

Paul Ghils, Global knowledge in the global city according to Paul Otlet’s twin Utopias”, Cosmopolis, 2/2015

Daniele Archibugi, “A critical analysis of the self-determination of peoples: a cosmopolitan perspective”, Constellations, 4, London: Blackwell, 2003

David Held and others, Global Transformations, London: Polity, 1999

Bertrand Badie and Marie-Claude Smouts, Le retournement du monde, Paris: Dalloz, 1992

Thomas Risse-Kappen (ed.), Bringing Transnational Relations Back In. Non-State Actors, Domestic Structures and International Institutions, Cambridge : CUP, 2008

Charnovitz Steve, « The emergence of democratic participation », Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 2003

Rawls John, The Law of Peoples, Harvard University Press, 1997

Mahdi Mushin, “Religion and the cyclical view of history”, in Hommage à Jean Jolivet, Paris: Vrin, 1998

Seligman, the Idea of Civil Society, New York: Free Press, 1992

Colas Dominique, Le Glaive et le Fléau. Généalogie du fanatisme et de la société civile, Grasset, Paris, 1992.

Chambers Simon and Kymlicka Will (eds.), Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society, Princeton: Princeton UP, 2002

Mezzalama Francesco, “Involvement of civil society organizations other than NGOs and the private sector in technical cooperation activities: experiences and prospects of the United Nations system”, JIU/REP/2002/1, United Nations, 2002

Shanoor Seervai, "The Rising Tide of Intolerance in Narendra Modi’s India", Kennedy School Review, July 27, 2016

Maria Marketa Jerabek, Alisson Maxwell Ferreira de Andrade & Ana Magdalena Figueroa, "FIFA’s Hegemony: Examples from World Cup Hosting Countries", Global society, issue 3, 2017

Lester M. Salamon, S. Wojciech Sokolowski, Megan A. Haddock, Explaining Civil Society Development: A Social Origins Approach, Johns Hopkins UP, 2017

Fr. Evolution du climat, changement climatique, GIEC (Groupe d'experts intergouvernemental sur l'évolution du climat)

Esp. Cambio climático, evolución del clima

→ Anthropocene, common goods, IPCC, IPBES

This term only gives a partial account of wider and multiple developments that have serious consequences for the future of mankind. Climate science is a central piece of a complex set of disciplines that cover so many phenomena that they require an interdisciplinary approach (Abraham 2014). Scientific research has demonstrated that global warming is caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, which have now reached more than 400 parts per million in the air—higher than that breathed by homo sapiens in the last 200,000 years. Global warming is intimately connected to feeding more than seven billion people, providing drinkable water as supplies dwindle and supplying electricity to billions of people who still do not have it. Global warming is a fact that has been well established since the 1800s, and has reached near unanimous consensus among the world’s climate scientists about its anthropogenic nature (Weiler and Demuynck 2017). The concept has come recently to the fore because it expresses its content in an immediate, tangible way, but it is also linked to closely related realities, studied by other sciences:

- Biodiversity (biological diversity) loss is rapid and ongoing (UNEP 2015). Over the last 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems faster and more extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history. Tropical forests, many wetlands and other natural habitats are shrinking in size. Species are going extinct at rates 1,000 times the background rates typical of Earth’s past. Trends of some 3,000 wild populations of species show a consistent decline in average species abundance of about 40% between 1970 and 2000; inland water species declined by 50%, while marine and terrestrial species both declined by around 30%. Studies of amphibians globally, African mammals, birds in agricultural lands, British butterflies, Caribbean and Indo-Pacific corals, and commonly harvested fish species show declines in the majority of species assessed. The direct causes of biodiversity loss – habitat change, overexploitation, the introduction of invasive alien species, nutrient loading and climate change – show no sign of abating.

- Humankind has to face a systematic shortage of food on a planetary scale as soon as 2050, which will lead to social unrest and consequently to political instability, in several parts of the planet and over longer periods. Overall, unsustainable consumption continues, as indicated by our growing global ecological footprint. The global demand for resources now exceeds the biological capacity of the Earth to renew these resources by some 20% (Global Biodiversity Outlook 4, 2015).

- In the field of ecological economics, researchers have indicated that either one of the two features apparent in historical societal collapses – over-exploitation of natural resources and strong economic stratification – can independently result in a complete collapse. Given economic stratification, collapse is very difficult to avoid and requires major policy changes, including major reductions in inequality and population growth rates. Even in the absence of economic stratification, collapse can still occur if depletion per capita is too high. However, collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.

- In geology, scientists suggested that the Holocene should be followed by the Anthropocene. Already in the mid-nineteenth century, several geologists sought to recognize the growing power of humankind by referring to the present as the ‘anthropozoic era’ and other similar names. Human impacts on the environment surged in that period, which has been called “the Great Acceleration”. The idea has gained traction only in the past few years, however, in part because of rapid changes in the environment, as well as the influence of Paul Crutzen, an atmospheric chemist at the Max Plank Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. In the 1970s and 1980s, he made major discoveries about the ozone layer and how pollution from humans could damage it. In 2000, he and Eugene Stoermer of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor argued that the global population has gained so much influence over planetary processes that the current geological epoch should be called the Anthropocene. In the opinion of many geoscientists, the magnitude of changes justifies a new division of geological time: through mining activities alone, humans move more sediment than all the world’s rivers combined. Homo sapiens has also warmed the planet, raised sea levels, eroded the ozone layer and acidified the oceans (Abraham 2014).

Despite these sound scientific data, there remain a few high-profile scientists who have continued to put forth alternative explanations for observed climatic changes across the globe, which has caused part of public opinion to reject the anthropogenic theory. However, contrarian arguments against mainstream thinking have been strongly criticized in the scientific literature, and have not befallen the prominent consensus studies (Abraham 2016). Equally worrying is the fact that those “global warming skeptics” have sometimes politicized these pseudo-arguments, to such a point that the American Environmental Protection Agency, for example, now officially doubts the science connecting carbon emissions and climate change (Union of Concerned Scientists 2017). EPA’s Office of Science and Technology Policy deleted the word "science" from the description of its mission and the Administration cut program funds that protect the environment and our health—especially those focused on climate and earth science.


International conventions

In December 2014, one accomplishment of the Lima agreement was to end the longstanding division of the world into only two kinds of countries, developed and developing, whose obligations had been defined according to their level of development by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in 1992: the rich countries had compulsory obligations, while poorer countries merely had been required to make voluntary efforts. That binary distinction looked increasingly obsolete, as the larger developing countries, such as China and Brazil, emerged as economic superpowers and major greenhouse-gas emitters (Jacobs 2014).

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992) and the Kyoto Protocol (1997, into force 2005) provide a basis for international co-operation, along with a range of partnerships and other approaches.The latter’s emphasis was on legally binding commitments, with targets and timetables set in advance of state action, was a demanding approach, required greater than available political commitment to succeed and was actually not very efficient.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris was the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the UNFCCC and the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties (CMP11) of the Kyoto Protocol. COP21 (the Paris Agreement) reached a global agreement on the reduction of climate change, the text of which represented a consensus of the 196 Parties attending it, and was signed by 174 countries in New York on 22 April 2016. It entered into force on 4 November 2016. 148 of 197 Parties to the Convention have ratified it (June 2017). The first session serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) took place in Marrakech, from 15-18 November 2016. COP21 negotiations took a different approach from previous agreements, beginning with national pledges for voluntary action and general arrangements for periodic review and transparency. Its effectiveness will depend in considerable measure on the review process, to assess the fulfillment of national commitments over the next few years.

One improvement at that time was that the Working Group on Climate Change took a longer-term perspective, aiming to catalyze new understandings of the politics, sociology, and political theory of climate change policy in a historical and comparative perspective. However, what is increasingly described as a turn-point in the history of humankind has not prevented the US from deciding in June 2017 to withdraw from the Paris agreement, which could cause to release 0.4 gigatonne more carbon dioxide in annual emissions in the year 2030, plus another 1.8 gigatonnes CO2 in 2030, about 31 percent of 2005 U.S. emissions, if the climate plan created by the Obama administration has not yet been fully implemented (Höhne et al. 2017, Scientific American, May 31, 2017). As the COP 24 approaches in Poland, the states that signed the Paris Agreement are not necessarily in a better position, since only 16 of the 197 signatories (Algeria, Canada, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Samoa, Singapore and Tonga) comply with their commitment. This means that, as things stand, the signatories to the Paris Agreement are preparing for a global warming of 2.7° to +3.2° from 2030, instead of limiting the increase to 1.5° to 2° in 2050.


Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas & Eugenia Kalnay, “Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies”, Ecological Economics, 101, 2014

John P. Abraham et al., “Review of the consensus and asymmetric quality of research on human-induced climate change”, Cosmopolis, 1014/1

Michael Jacobs, “The Real Lima Deal”, ProjectSyndicate, Dec. 15, 2014

UNEP, Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 A mid-term assessment of progress towards the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020

Michel Adam, “Le patrimoine à l’ère de l’anthropocène, tous responsables », Cosmopolis, 1015/1

Raoul A. Weiler & Kris Demuynck, “Is the impact of climate change and demography on food production critical by 2100 ?”, Cosmopolis, 2016-4

Richard Monastersky, The Human Age, London: Macmillan, 2015

Erika Spanger-Siegfried, “Dear Scott Pruitt: Stop Lying. We See What You Are Doing”, Union of Concerned Scientists, March 10, 2017

Steven Mufson, Jason Samenow and Brady Dennis, “White House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency”, The Washington Post, 3 March 2017

David Biello, “China's Xi Outshines Trump as the World's Future Energy Leader”, Scientific American, April 11, 2017

Niklas Höhne, Lisa Luna, Hanna Fekete and Sebastian Sterl (NewClimate Institute), Bill Hare, Jasmin Cantzler, Paola Parra, Fabio Sferra and Andrzej Ancygier (Climate Analytics), Yvonne Deng and Goher Ur Rehman Mir (Ecofys), Action by China and India slows emissions growth, President Trump’s policies likely to cause US emissions to flatten, 15 May 2017

Gerardo Ceballos, “Biological annihilation, population and species extinction, and the future of civilization”, Cosmopolis, 2018/3-4

Severin Fisher, "Climate Policy after Paris: Inconvenient Truths", CSS, 203, February 2017


Fr. Représentation collective

→ Community, identity, individual(ism)

Collective representations are shared mental images, which persons and collective entities have about the social and natural reality they live in, but also about social worlds with which they do not have an immediate experience. Collective representations often refer to imaginary worlds or to worlds that we cannot perceive empirically. Collective representations are mental NotAllowedScript61a3bdf88ca6dmaps of the social scene about which Jodelet says: "It is a socially developed and shared type of knowledge. This knowledge has a practical meaning and contributes to the construction of a common reality of a social unit" (Jodelet 1989, 36).

   However, this does not mean that those groups and persons with specific collective representations are always fully aware of seeing the world through these collective representations. Collective representations may be, according to them, the images of social reality as it really is. Those who do not share their view are simply erring, according to them. Such a type of collective representation is in the minds of those persons, who state that modern society is nothing more than a totality of market relations, or those who think that modern society is basically a system of exploitation of workers by a capitalist class.

   In those cases the collective representation is also a shared conviction or a belief. It may be so self-evident to those who cherish the collective representation that they reject vehemently the idea that a different and equally "valid" interpretation of reality may be possible.

   Such collective representations are conscious constructions. When asked about their own interpretation, people can report about the way they ‘see’ the outside world. This does not mean that the members of a group are always conscious of the fact that they see social reality through such lenses. The case may also be that, while they realize that their collective representations are not pictures of reality (in the sense of ‘Abbildungen’), they will not be realize in which ways their habitus, acquired as members of their specific culture, determines their way of looking at the world around them, of interpreting the ways of life of other groups.

     Here a comparison with language may be clarifying. When we speak a language, especially our mother tongue, we are barely aware of its syntax and grammar. Even less will we be aware of the specific ways in which our language structures our thinking by imposing categories and making distinctions which are far from being universal. When I make a distinction between collective representations, pertaining partly at least to the conscious level and habitus, partly belonging to the unconscious level, we must keep in mind that the demarcation-line between the two levels is not rigid. Changing social conditions, especially increasing contact with members of the other groups, the outsiders may raise the level of awareness of our habitus as a hidden side of group life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It It follows from the above that collective representations of our society, as interpretations of its basic characteristics, of its dynamics, of the possibilities and opportunities to influence its future, have inevitably an ideological side. Many collective representations can be considered as shared convictions or beliefs and those persons who adhere to them reject vehemently the idea that a different and equally "valid" interpretation of reality may be possible. Participants in social life may be convinced that their collective representations are true and that the collective images of the Other are false. Moreover, collective representations may be judged to be "good", that is to say that they are in line with the collective goals of the members of a specific group or, in many cases, to be "bad" when one is referring to the collective representations of opponents.

   We must keep in mind that many collective representations are very functional for a given social entity. This functionality for the in-group often poses problems in intergroup relations, which can bring negative consequences in international relations.

   Nevertheless, the functionality of collective representations for group life is evident. Collective representations are, in the first place, means by which persons and groups orient themselves in an otherwise extremely complex and incomprehensible world. They give indications about who we are and who are the others. They offer a grip on a world that otherwise would not be understandable. But we must keep in mind that they are also an important source of confusions and disorientation.

   Collective representations are connected with an awareness of differences between categories of human beings – differences that may be much more refined than the distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’- and of course of differences between animals and material objects. They give indications about what should be done and what not, and they orient our feelings of belongingness. They are certainly also the source of oppositions between one’s own identity and those of the others, the outsiders. Moreover, they are connected with feelings of commitment and solidarity. Collective representations are tied to codes of inclusion and exclusion, to distinctions between ’pure’ and impure’, between ‘savage’ and ‘civilized’, between ‘natural products’ and ‘processed products’. They are burdened with metaphors and symbols (Jankelevitch 1960).


Berting, Jan, How to Escape from The Diabolic Triangle? Followed by a Short Analysis of Some Other Collective Delusions. Delft: Eburon, 2010

Berting, Jan, Shadows on the Cave’s Wall. How to Ameliorate Our Social Understanding of the World We Live In. Aubagne: Autres Talents, 2012

Berting Jan, Living in an Age of Political Crisis. How a Blindfolded Political Class Lost its Links With Our Future, Istanbul: Ka Kitap, 2014

Jankélévitch Vladimir, Le pur et l’impur. Paris: Flammarion, 1960

Jodelet, Denise, ‘Représentations sociales: un domaine en expansion’, in Denise Jodelet (Ed.), Les représentations sociales, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1989



Fr. Communs, société civile, acteurs non étatiques

-> Common goods, corporate citizenship, public goods

The concept refers to a very wide field of social aspects which the conventional widom call common knowledge, common practice or common property. It includes profitmaking and nonprofit activities, economic and political facts, legal and traditional dimensions. Related concepts are associations, charities, third sector, nonprofit sector, philanthropy, nongovernmental sector, foundations, civil society, social economy and voluntary action. Research is carried out in many disciplines (social and human sciences, philosophy, history), which makes it a rather multi-, if not transdisciplinary concept.

In the Anglo-American area, common law arose out of custom and conventional practice and the much broader experience of common lands held in joint tenancy or ownership. Some American states are self-identified as Commonwealths. In history, the commons appear to predate both economic and politicial activities (Lohmann 1992). Anthropologists have found that primitive life is seldom the unrelieved struggle for survival projected by modernists. Sahlins (1972) has argued that primitive man may have had relatively large amounts of leisure time used for painting, carving images or making music, punctuated by occasional periods of hunting and gathering to assure survival.

Under from the all-embracing concept of “commons”, Lohmann notes that “terms such as endowment, foundation, benefit, and trustee stretch back hundreds of years and are anchored deep in western culture.”, some of which were borrowed from Latin, like benefice, or fideocommisia or from Greek, like koininia) express important contemporary ideas, but fallen into disuse. The more recent term “new commons” was adopted, he says, in contrast with the more familiar “old” commons in primary industries (agriculture, forestry, forests, fisheries), rural and largely governed within common law, beyond the reach of law, courts, states and cities. By contrast, new commons are typically urban rather than rural, innovative, intentional and deliberately constitutional rather than traditional or customary, operating within regimes of private property ownership and grounded in increasingly universal legal infrastructures that enable and facilitate their formation and continuity.

In the Middle ages, the order that preceded the Wesphalian treaties was based on the dual authority of the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church, within a form of unity offered by the doctrine advocated by Thomas Aquinas of a God-given natural law above mankind which provided an opportunity for Christian rulers and their subjects to belong to a greater commonwealth. The short-lived English republic ruled by Cromwell from 1649 to 1660 to was declared a Commonwealth, the English state has included A House of Commons of England since the 13th and 14th centuries, and the European Union was first undertaken under the heading of a Common Market.

Paradoxically, the historical development of the commons has moved from the familiar sphere of local associations, groups and charities into the international sphere. It is echoed in Alexis de Tocqueville’s words (1945), who said that “In democratic countries, the science of association is the mother science; the progress of all the others depends on the progress of that one. Among the laws that rule human societies, there is one that seems more precise and clearer than all the others. In order that men remain civilized or become so, the art of associating must be developed and perfected among them in the same ratio as equality of conditions increases.” Again, this statement assigns a centrality to nonprofit or third sector activities in history as in social science.

Today’s public goods in the study of international relations are equated with the supply of private goods in the marketplace (property rights, common standards of measures, international currencies, consistent macroeconomic policies, proper action in case of economic crises, stable exchange rates), while some other goods cannot be provided by the market, such as peace predictability or safety. The concept of nonmarket goods was introduced to third sector studies as a type of common social resource not “owned” by anyone in the legal and philosophical sense. The usual connotation of the term “commons” is related to the constitutive ideas of nonprofit and voluntary action, also called third sector or, more commonly, civil society. The common good in this sense may refer to sports clubs, social movements, political parties, religious, artistic, scientific or athletic societies, humanitarian agencies, information and communication networks, or to many other forms of international associations with nonprofit aims. As an ideal type, the commons are empirically characterized by their altruistic motives and behavior, philanthropy and charity, as well as patronage, donations and gift giving, as well as programmes involving scientific research, education and other ways of disseminatinf knowledge and experience. As expressed by Jeremy Rifkin, supporters of a renewed commons consider that “A new science is emerging whose operating principles and assumptions are more compatible with empathic ways of thinking.The old science views nature as objects;the new science views nature as relationships.The old science ischaracterized by detachment,expropriation, dissection,and reduction;the new science seeks partnership with nature.” (2010, 11)

Collaborative commons
Jeremy Rifkin has introcuded this term to refer to the reemergence of the commons today from an older paradigm of capitalism, in the form of social commons constructed “as an Internet of Things infrastructure that optimizes collaboration, universal access and inclusion, all of which are critical to the creation of social capital and the ushering in of a sharing economy.” The Internet of Things is a game-changing platform that enables an emerging collaborative commons to flourish alongside the capitalist market. This collaborative rather than capitalistic approach is about shared access rather than private ownership. For example, 1.7 million people globally are members of car-sharing services. A recent survey found that the number of vehicles owned by car-sharing participants decreased by half after joining the service, with members preferring access over ownership. Millions of people are using social media sites, redistribution networks, rentals and cooperatives to share not only cars but also homes, clothes, tools, toys and other items at low or near zero marginal cost. The sharing economy had projected revenues of $3.5 billion in 2013.

Roger Lohmann, The Commons: Perspectives on Nonprofit Organization and Voluntary Action, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1992

Steve Rayner, "Governance and the Global Commons", Centre for the Study of Global Governance, LSE and Transnational Associations, 1994/4 and 5.
Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, New York: Vintage, 1945 [1862]
Jeremy Rifkins, “The Empathic Civilization”, Address Before the British Royal Society for the Arts, 2010
Jeremy Rifkins, The Empathic Civilization. The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, Cambridge: CUP, 2010

Governance and the Global Commons

Steve Rayner

Senior Program Manager, Global Environmental Management Studies Bartelle, Pacific Northwest Laboratories

The full version of this paper is available from Transnational Associations, 1994/4 and 5.


Object Z was the name of a 1960s TV science fiction series aimed at children. The premise of the story, spread over several weekly instalments, was the discovery by the international scientific community of a large object from deep space that seemed ser on a collision course with earth's orbit. This discovery prompted the governments of the world's most powerful nations to sink their cold war differences and combine their economic, scientific, and military resources to meet this unknown threat. In the final episode, it was revealed that, in fact, this blossoming of international cooperation was exactly the goal of a group of scientists whose fears of global destruction through nuclear warfare had led them to devise an elaborate international scientific hoax.

In the 1990s, we are witnessing a flourishing scientific and political concern for the fate of the planet. The threat is not from an external source, but from the unprecedented scale of humanity's own actions affecting the earth's environment, particularly its atmosphere and climate. The gist of this paper may be summed up by the parallel between climate change and Object Z. That is to say, if the threat of climate change did not exist we would have had to invent it, or something very much like it, to respond to the challenges of global governance

at the end of the twentieth century. The preface to my argument is the competing (although not mutually exclusive) accounts of the career of the climate change issue emanating from the natural and social sciences.