Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Civil Society" and the Contestation of Law

In a chapter I am writing for a book on tax law and development, I introduce the rise of activism in international tax policy, with groups like UKUncut and the Occupy movement bringing attention to the under-taxation of multinationals (and Bono) as a main culprit for the deep budget austerity being imposed in the U.S. and Europe.  I frame the emergence of these individuals and groups as a needed counterweight to the influence of the multinational business industry on tax policy and politics at both national and international levels.

One of the conceptual difficulties is explaining who these people are, that is, protestors and non governmental organizations that are not affiliated with business interests (i.e., not GE or Microsoft, and not CATO or Heritage).  Is this "civil society"?  No, if civil society means members of society who are not in government service, since that definition includes the multinationals against which these groups are working to gain influence over tax policy.   A Georgetown law professor just posted Conceptions of Civil Society in International Law-Making, in which she explores the normative conceptions of civil society and maps a terrain of interests and influences.  She writes:

In the past two decades, as the reach of international organizations has expanded, so has the number of civil society organizations that seek to influence international policy-making and national implementation efforts. Diverse types of international organizations have enacted consultative mechanisms to incorporate civil society input into decision-making and implementation processes. Nevertheless, and despite its widespread use, the concept of civil society remains undertheorized in the legal literature. . . . 
[C]ivil society can contribute to the legitimacy of international organizations by constituting a space where different normative legitimacy claims are constructed and debated, and where consensus (even if limited) on what the legitimacy of international organizations requires can be reached. This understanding of civil society is particularly important in issue areas likely to engender normative disagreement about the proper role of international institutions, where legitimacy questions are of particular importance. 
I'm on to final round edits on my chapter but I will try to squeeze some of this in anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment