In this thoroughly researched and well argued book, Clifford Bob tells readers what they probably already know: global civil society is inherently conflictual, with ideologically opposed groups battling each other in pursuit of contending agendas. Indeed, taken at face value, much of this book amounts to stating the obvious. Nevertheless, The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics represents a useful and important contribution to the established literature on global civil society and to a burgeoning literature on contentious politics. Employing a thoughtfully constructed analytical framework, supported by detailed case studies of gay rights and gun control, Bob uncovers the how and why behind the fundamental dynamics of global civil society. Along the way, he also explores varied outcomes that can result from battles between opposing groups. In so doing, he provides cogent insights and useful tools that can help us better understand the inner workings of contemporary transnational politics. [End Page 250]
Since the late 1990s, the issues, actors, and dynamics that comprise global civil society have been the focus of increased scholarly attention. Yet, as Bob contends, much of this work paints global civil society as a broadly harmonious arena peopled by well-intentioned groups pursuing nobly progressive ends. Studies to date generally have acknowledged the contentious nature of transnational politics, but neither this dynamic nor its varied outcomes have been substantively explored. Bob’s argument that transnational politics and global civil society are characterized by ideological diversity and conflict, with bruising battles between opponents playing out across international institutions, offers a much-needed corrective to the conventional wisdom and helps to fill an important gap in the literature.
Bob begins by laying the analytical foundation for his case studies, discussing in turn three aspects of contention, each of which encompasses a number of ongoing processes driven by groups’ ideological differences. Among other things, he explores how conflict develops when rival groups frame their own understanding of a problem and deconstruct their opponents’ frames; how the dynamics of conflict play out as groups set and unset opposing agendas in various international forums; and how the outcomes of conflict can vary and remain subject to contention even after a battle appears to have ended.
With his foundation in place, Bob turns his attention to two case studies—gay rights and gun control—each of which receives two chapters of coverage: a “global” chapter addressing subject issues and actors in a transnational context, and a “local” chapter examining how relevant battles played out on a national or regional level. In the gay rights case, Bob looks at the global battle between the Baptist-Burqa Network and opposing groups such as the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), and then focuses on gay rights campaigns in Europe with an emphasis on Sweden and Romania. For the gun control case, he examines domestic opposition to UN crime prevention and disarmament efforts, focusing primarily on the activities of America’s National Rifle Association (NRA), and then turns his attention to the gun control battle in Brazil. Both case studies offer a detailed analysis of their subject battles and parties’ involvement, supported by solid research and personal interviews with key actors. Bob then concludes with a nicely organized chapter recapping his arguments and reiterating his call for a “clear-eyed appreciation” of the inherently conflictual nature of transnational politics.
Bob’s book should be well received by scholars, teachers, and students of transnational politics, particularly those interested in global civil society, contentious politics, and social change. Of primary interest to scholars will be Bob’s distinctive take on the nature and dynamics of contentious politics, particularly his concept of frame-jacking—whereby one group’s framing of an issue is appropriated by its opponent for the latter’s own ends; his argument that substantive policy on an issue is only one possible outcome of a battle between ideological rivals (the others being “nonpolicy” or substantively ineffectual “zombie” policy); and the notion that decisive victories are seldom achieved in contentious politics, with rivals continuing...