Nongovernmental Politics

Nongovernmental Politics

Edited by Michel Feher

With Yates McKee and Gaëlle Krikorian

The past, present, and future prospects of nongovernmental politics—political activism that withdraws from traditional government but not from the politics associated with governing.

Distributed for Zone Books

Hardcover $39.95 S £32.00
Paperback $39.95 T £32.00





The past, present, and future prospects of nongovernmental politics—political activism that withdraws from traditional government but not from the politics associated with governing.

To be involved in politics without aspiring to govern, without seeking to be governed by the best leaders, without desiring to abolish all forms of government: such is the condition common to practitioners of nongovernmental politics. Whether these activists concern themselves with providing humanitarian aid, monitoring human rights violations, protecting the environment, educating consumers, or improving the safety of workers, the legitimacy and efficacy of their initiatives demand that they forsake conventional political ambitions. Yet even as they challenge specific governmental practices, nongovernmental activists are still operating within the realm of politics.Composed of scholarly essays on the challenges and predicaments facing nongovernmental activism, profiles of unique and diverse NGOs (including Memorial, Global Exchange, World Vision, and Third World Network), and interviews with major nongovernmental actors (Gareth Evans of International Crisis Group, Anthony Romero of the ACLU, Rony Brauman of Médecins sans Frontières, and Peter Lurie of Public Citizen, among others), this book offers a groundbreaking survey of the rapidly expanding domain of nongovernmental activism. It examines nongovernmental activists' motivations, from belief in the universality of human rights to concerns over the fairness of corporate stakeholders' claims, and explores the multiple ways in which nongovernmental agencies operate. It analyzes the strategic options available and focuses on some of the most remarkable sites of NGO action, including borders, disaster zones, and the Internet. Finally, the book analyzes the conflicting agendas pursued by nongovernmental advocates—protecting civil society from the intrusions of governments that lack accountability or wresting the world from neo-liberal hegemony on the one hand and hastening the return of the Savior or restoring the social order prescribed by the Prophet on the other.


$39.95 S | £32.00 ISBN: 9781890951757 696 pp. | 7.5 in x 9.5 in


$39.95 T | £32.00 ISBN: 9781890951740 696 pp. | 7.5 in x 9.5 in


Michel Feher

Michel Feher, a Belgian philosopher, is the author of Powerless by Design: The Age of the International Community and the editor of Nongovernmental Politics and Europe at a Crossroads, among other titles. Founder of Cette France-là, a monitoring group on French immigration policy, Feher is also a founding editor of Zone Books.


Yates McKee and Gaëlle Krikorian.


  • It is a tribute to Nongovernmental Politics that, while keeping their focus on the urgency of action, its contributors…insist over and over on how claims to disinterestedness are shot through with interests and inextricably political. The point is both to enrich and to displace what we understand by neutrality.

    Radical Philosophy

  • Nongovernmental Politics…is a huge and intellectually sprawling volume, physically large enough to serve as a doorstop or even to be used in self-defense against pointed weapons…The authors of the forty-seven contributions here are diverse—a few are university scholars, a good many are activists, some are staff to NGOs and international agencies, several are graduate students. They are predominantly European, with a strong French inflection (doubtless due to Feher's influence). They reflect as well as anything I have read the range of ambitions and anxieties in the growing NGO movement, although of course they are all committed to some version of the notion that we must find new modes of responding to the inadequacies of formal politics through other means. The term “nongovernmental politics” sounds like an oxymoron, but this interesting volume shows why it is not.

    Common Knowledge

  • Morality can't tell political actors what to do. Only politics can do that. The difficulty this poses for anyone who wishes that politics might be done differently, and better, is a theme that unites many of the contributors to Non-Governmental Politics. In his excellent introduction, Michel Feher spells out some of the tensions inherent in the idea that politics is failing many of the world's neediest inhabitants, and yet it is only politics that can rescue them.

    London Review of Books