Aziz Choudry and Dip Kapoor, eds.
London and New York: Zed Books, 2013; 248 pages. $35.95 (paperback), ISBN 9781780322575
The main topic of this book is the growing professionalization, depoliticization, and demobilization of movements for social and environmental change termed “NGOization.” Editors Aziz Choudry and Dip Kapoor adopt a critical approach toward nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) by focusing on analysis referring to their dependence and/or complicity with state, market, and multilateral/international institutions. The volume includes articles adopting common assumptions about the role of NGOs in globalizing capitalist colonization of territories, nature, peoples, and cultures in early twenty-first century. This book fills the gap in the literature regarding the negative effects of NGOs.
The volume includes articles by scientists, activists, and educators whose studies include themes such as economic planning, NGO evaluators, gender, ethnography, human services, food systems, governance, the future of democracy, social and environmental justice, capitalism, colonialism, and development assistance. Case study chapters include different geographical and political contexts such as the United States, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Philippines, Serbia, and Kyrgyzstan.
The book includes nine contributed chapters and a preface. Sangeeta Kamat, in the preface, discusses synergy between neoliberalism and the [End Page 173] rise of the NGO sector, which has an important role in the transformations of states and the economy. She shows that the basic problem of NGOs is they are the favored institutional form through which every social problem can be addressed. But this NGOization obstructs the processes of authentic democratization. Kamat underscores the perspective of the authors of the book, particularly the thesis that “NGOs belong neither to state nor to civil society but are contested sites in the struggle between the interests of capital and people’s aspirations for a just and humane world” (xi). In this context, NGOization is analyzed as an always unfinished and unstable project.
Choudry and Kapoor, in the introductory chapter, seek to move beyond dominant “civil society” concepts of politics and action by critical analyses of NGOization to reconceptualize resistance against capitalism and colonialism. The editors show the limitations of building NGO typologies as well as of analyzing their relationship with governments and the private sector. Importantly, they demonstrate the widespread NGO commitment to economic and foreign policies strategies of democratization by building civil society by professionalization and depoliticization of community-based organizations. Those processes include, for example, displacing, destroying, or neutralizing social movements by NGOs, lobbying of governments or international institutions, and privatization of the notion of public interest. Choudry and Kapoor show that an important challenge is to move beyond the dichotomy between NGOs and social movements. The authors describe several critiques of NGOs: analyzing them as agents of capitalist colonization of material space, as the professionalization of dissent, and as knowledge colonization for capital. Those strategies are more or less reflected in further case study chapters.
Choudry, in his chapter (“Saving Biodiversity, for Whom and for What? Conservation NGOs, Complicity, Colonialism and Conquest in an Era of Capitalist Globalisation”), describes how environmental NGOs serve economic and political elite interests by colonial practices and discourse. He discusses the cases of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand and Conservation International, headquartered in the United States. Both of them include the struggles of indigenous peoples to save biodiversity and describe the violations of environmental and human rights by NGOs, as well as their facilitation of green-washing [End Page 174] corporations and intellectual property rights projects to identify species and natural resources to commercial interests.
Kapoor, in the second chapter (“Social Action and NGOization in Contexts of Development Dispossession in Rural India: Explorations into the Un-civility of Civil Society”), shows the NGO role in creating Special Economic Zones in India, which accelerated the rise of a development-displaced persons population. NGOs serve to represent citizens in national and international forums as well as to address social services for displaced persons. NGOs are also spying on communities for mineral extraction and undermining social movements with anti-displacement and anti-colonial political orientations because they often serve as agents of state-corporate capital penetration. Kapoor also raises several questions that...