"Civil Society" & uncivil aims

I just reviewed a book about how US-based NGOs misinterpret the societies they operate in, for H-LatAm (part of the huge Humanities and Social Sciences family of scholarly websites). The book is Wiarda, Howard J. 2003. Civil Society: The American Model and Third World Development. Boulder CO: Westview Press.

Wiarda's concern is that Americans in NGOs abroad will be so naive as to think they can reproduce US-style "liberalism" (as he calls our system) and the "unfettered sociability" of US civil society in other countries, which tend to be suspicious of US-type "civil society" associations. No wonder. "Empire" is the unmentioned factor that might explain the suspicion. While the US government may tolerate "liberalism" at home with little interference in NGO operations or missions, Wiarda fails to note that overseas it uses the NGOs it funds to implement US policy -- e.g., overthrowing governments in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, trying to do the same in Venezuela and doubtless many other places.

Look for the full review to appear on H-LatAm in about a month (the editors are backlogged).

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