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Uncivil society in the International System

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Uncivil society in the International System

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This lecture highlights the recent trend towards the development of Uncivil Society Organizations or UCSOs in the international system. The lecture also provides with one of the first definitions of the phenomena.

This lecture highlights the recent trend towards the development of Uncivil Society Organizations or UCSOs in the international system. The lecture also provides with one of the first definitions of the phenomena.

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Uncivil society in the International System

  1. 1. Uncivil Society in the International System Dr. Andreas Önnerfors Associate Professor in the History of Sciences and Ideas University of Gothenburg, Sweden andreas.onnerfors@gu.se https://gu-se.academia.edu/AndreasÖnnerfors
  2. 2. Image from a PEGIDA UK ralley, 2016
  3. 3. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the International System • Civil Society, the ’third sector’ beyond public and private (business) • INGO:s = International Non-Governmental Organizations such as such as Red Cross • NGO:s = non-governmental organizations on state, regional or local level, i e a local voluntary organization running a soup kitchen or shelter • Private Charities (that not are corporations) such as Gates Foundation • Churches / religious groups / political parties ? Sometimes included as CSOs, sometimes not due to their bias and exclusiveness and since they are not clearly located in the ’third sector’
  4. 4. Normative expectations towards CSOs in the international system • Mitigating downsides of international collaboration/politics, bridgning national self-interest • Mitigating the lack of global governance (UN mainly consensus based IGO = Inter-Governmental Organization) • ’Neutral’ advocacy / lobby / pressure groups for humanitarian causes (Amnesty International, Médecins sans Frontièrs etc) • Providing with relief and assistance in armed conflicts and crises • Substituting the delivery of political goods in ’failed states’ • Developmental work • Accountable and resiliant (?) partners in CSO-partnerships
  5. 5. What is ’Uncivil Society’? “Uncivil society is a form of political self-organisation with four aims: (1) The removal of the normative ideal of a political community ruled by law. (2) The weakening of standards the universal human rights regime. (3) The promotion of aggressive and exclusionary principles of (populist) particularism. (4) The abuse of constitutionally granted liberties in order to promote their opposite, mainly in order to attack political opponents and to target perceived enemy groups. In organisational terms, Uncivil Society Organisations (‘UCSOs’) mimic the features of CSOs such as names, organisational culture, symbols, forms of online and offline mobilization, PR, fundraising, voluntary action and internal as well external solidarity. Their claim is to represent popular political will without mediation.” (Önnerfors, 2020) Source: https://www.blogalstudies.com/post/international-relations-of-hate-how-the- radical-right-has-conquered-territory-in-the-international)
  6. 6. TIME Magazine 1 February 2016 Example PEGIDA – Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident ’: • established in 2014 • celebrated its 200th rally in February 2020 • originated in Dresden, formerly GDR • offshoots in Germany, but also internationally, for instance PEGIDA UK (2016)
  7. 7. Location within the international ’counter-jihad movement’ (CJM) since 2001 / 2011 / 2012 • ’Stop the Islamization of Nations’ / ’Stop the Islamization of Europe’ styles itself as an international organization with a united normative goal • clear organizational and personal ties between CJM and radical right organizations such as the English Defence League (EDL)
  8. 8. Location within the European ’Generation Identity’ • ’Génération Identitaire’ has French origins in the so- called ’Nouvelle Droite’ blending German interwar conservatism with elements of ’68-societal crititque and traditional conservative and nationalist positions • the aim is to conquer and change the cultural frames of politics, also called ’metapolitics’ • strongly anti-globalization / anti-Americanism • promoting ’ethnopluralism’, ’Europe of 100 flags’ • belief in the ’Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory • GI has numerous European offshoots, for instance in the UK and Ireland • actvisim that more reminds of traditional left-wing actions • active use of the internet and the logics of social media, ’prosumers’, sharing, likes, memes • offline events staged to create online dissemination
  9. 9. Shared positions • ’idealism of realism’: populist self-interest is the basis of international relations => mixophobia / ethnopluralism • yet a shared civilizational frame: ’European values’, Christianity but also radical agnosticism/secularism • Rejection of societal elites and checks-and-balances such as independent judicial institutions • Decision-making based on direct expressions of ’popular will’ of the national community • Exploitation of human rights in the international system
  10. 10. Hijacking Human Rights • Reversal of the language of human rights for own, particularist and exclusionary purposes • Historically: HR delimit infringements, protect minorities, ensure access and fulfilment of rights • Instead: ’free speech defenses’, pretended minority protection (’white race faces extinction’) and pretended support for LGBTQI+-rights (’homo-’ and femo-nationalism’) • liberal speech used for for illiberal ends • Example of free speech defenses: Tommy Robinson, former leader of EDL and Pegida UK, 2018 ’Free Tommy’-campaign • victimization and claims of being silenced
  11. 11. Conclusion • USCOs have moved their activities from the domestic to the global level • nativism / supremacy / ‘replacement’ • shared conspiracy imagination • migration flows • a global racial war/antagonism • crisis of masculinity / ‘traditional gender roles’ • climate change denial – eco-fundamentalism they have turned into actors in the “totality of interactions within the international system” (Buzan 2018)
  12. 12. Find out more • “The International Politics of Hate: How the Radical Right Exploits the International System”, School of Blogal Studies, 27 January 2020, https://www.blogalstudies.com/post/international-relations-of-hate-how-the- radical-right-has-conquered-territory-in-the-international • “Radical-Right Radicalization, From the Domestic to the Global”, CARR post 11, August 2019, published in Fair Observer, 24 September 2019: https://www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/radical-right-radicalization-global- networks-security-news-88955/ • “Hijacking Human Rights in the Swedish Radical Right”, CARR post 9, May 2019, also published in Fair Observer, https://www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/radical- right-freedom-expression-human-rights-sweden-europe-news-13251/ • “Conference Report – The Global Rise of Nativism and Illiberalism: A Conversation on the Contemporary Political Pathology”, CARR post 7, 16 January 2019, http://www.radicalrightanalysis.com/2019/01/16/conference-report-the-global-rise- of-nativism-and-illiberalism-a-conversation-on-the-contemporary-political- pathology/

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