The idea(l) of global civil society: Introduction
Debates over the ideal of global civil society represent an important contribution to our broader understanding of global order in the contemporary period. Globalization, the end of the cold war and the 'retreat of the state', all suggest that traditional accounts of global order need to be recalibrated. Particular emphasis is given in this collection to the material, ideational, cultural and civilizational dimensions of global order, alongside the more conventional themes of state power and economic dominance. This broadened analytical focus, we suggest, is especially important as we enter an era when the world's leading superpower confronts an environment in which its hegemony is apparently impossible to sustain, despite the possession of overwhelming military, political and economic power. The ethical and normative possibilities closely associated with the idea of global civil society provide a potentially powerful lever for those trying to understand, and intervene within, struggles over global social order. It is therefore the responsibility of social scientists to subject this idea to rigorous critical scrutiny from as broad an array of intellectual sources as possible.