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South African NGOs and the public sphere: between popular movements and partnerships for development.

Mueller-Hirth, Natascha

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Abstract

This article examines the widespread notion that post-apartheid democracy can be deepened and civil society strengthened by NGO activities in the sphere of public debate and participation. I focus on a number of interrelated processes which I argue may compromise NGOs' ability to expand the public sphere: first, donors' overwhelming focus on NGOs as the sole representative of civil society may contribute to a homogenous and institutionalised public sphere; second, the tendency for NGOs to be drawn into partnerships with government bodies and corporate sponsors casts doubt on their ability to open up spaces for critical public debate. By directing attention to popular movements as potentially offering a site for the production of critique, NGOs' relationships to such movements are examined. It is argued that attention must be paid to the processes of NGO-isation and reformism by which NGOs themselves come to define what civil society should be and may consequently contain counterpublic spheres.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Aug 31, 2009
Journal Social dynamics
Print ISSN 0253-3952
Electronic ISSN 1940-7874
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Issue 2
Pages 423-435
Institution Citation MUELLER-HIRTH, N. 2009. South African NGOs and the public sphere: between popular movements and partnerships for development. Social dynamics [online], 35(2), pages 423-435. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/02533950903076568
DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/02533950903076568
Keywords NGO; Civil society; South Africa; Social movement; Counterpublics

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