By: Carew Boulding
This book argues that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have an important effect on political participation in the developing world. Contrary to popular belief, they promote moderate political participation through formal mechanisms such as voting only in democracies where institutions are working well. This is a radical departure from the bulk of the literature on civil society that sees NGOs and other associations as playing a role in strengthening democracy wherever they operate. Instead, Carew Boulding shows that where democratic institutions are weak, NGOs encourage much more contentious political participation, including demonstrations, riots, and protests. Except in extreme cases of poorly functioning democratic institutions, however, the political protest that results from NGO activity is not generally anti-system or incompatible with democracy - again, as long as democracy is functioning above a minimal level.