Civil Society and NGO: Far from Unproblematic Concepts

Authored by: Norbert Götz

The Ashgate Research Companion to Non-State Actors

Print publication date:  February  2011
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754679066
eBook ISBN: 9781315613369
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042259


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Although of different backgrounds, the terms ‘civil society’ and ‘non-governmental organization’ (NGO) are used largely synonymously in discussions about non-state actors. Both are ambiguous and carry many variations in definition. Sometimes they are used in a comprehensive manner that includes for-profit enterprises. In a literal sense even criminal organizations might be regarded as NGOs. However, both terms primarily refer to the sphere of voluntary associations or non-profit organizations, sometimes called the ‘third sector’ (following state and market). As such, both terms generally attribute a positive meaning.

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