Office of Public Affairs
June 6, 2001
CONTACT: Craig Warkentin, 312-4080
OSWEGO PROFESSOR'S BOOK EXAMINES
GLOBAL CIVIL SOCIETY, POLITICS
OSWEGO -- A new player has emerged on the world stage in recent years -- the individual citizen. So argues Dr. Craig Warkentin of SUNY Oswego's political science faculty in his new book, "Reshaping World Politics," published in May by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
"Individual people can affect international politics," he says. "Usually states and governments make change in world politics, and the point here is that individual people can."
Their power is emerging from the expansion of civil society across national borders, abetted by progressive non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, and by the Internet, Warkentin says.
Civil society is the network of social relations that exist at the level between the individual and the government. "We participate in civil society when we help Habitat for Humanity build a house in our home town, join other members of a fraternity or sorority in supporting a local literacy project, promote an upcoming demonstration on campus, support a union with membership dues, volunteer to campaign for a political candidate or just talk about politics with friends," Warkentin writes.
Non-governmental organizations, known as NGOs, have memberships that cross national borders and are "one type of civil society actor," he says. Their numbers have exploded in recent years.
Warkentin's book examines eight such organizations -- including Greenpeace and Oxfam -- and how they have helped create a global civil society that empowers individual citizens at the international level.
"Their activities help establish social connections across borders," he says. As people interact with one another through these international networks, their attitudes shift in ways that sometimes impel them to take political action -- by writing their senator or joining a political campaign, he says.
A feature of this growing international political activity by individuals is that it tends to be progressive, clustering around issues like social justice, nonviolence, human rights and the environment.
"This idea of a civil society is a progressive idea," Warkentin explains. "Conservative groups tend not to move in an inclusive direction" and "they don't connect as much on an international scale," he says.
However, once the network of relations is established, all kinds of groups plug into them and use them. "Conservative groups use them to pursue their political agendas," Warkentin says.
"Reshaping World Politics" began as Warkentin's doctoral dissertation at the University of Kentucky. Warkentin joined Oswego's political science department as an assistant professor in 1999. He sees the main audience for his book as students in college courses on international politics, such as the course on "Global Activism" he will teach at Oswego in the fall.
"Reshaping World Politics" costs $21.95 in paperback and $65 in hardcover. The book has a companion Web site at http://www.oswego.edu/ reshaping/.
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