NGOs and post-positivism

Two likely friends?

Authored by: Jutta Joachim , Chris Nijhuis , Andrea Schneiker

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have arrived as a subject of analysis in the discipline of International Relations (IR). While still treated in a rather peripheral fashion until way into the 1980s, there now is a burgeoning literature related to the organizations and a vast number of topics ranging from their role in the evolution of human rights or environmental norms to their relationship with other actors, their institutional make-up, and their power base. That NGOs have moved from the margins to the center can be attributed to the ‘post-positivist turn’ in IR which broadened among other things our understanding of actorness. While once tightly linked to states, with this theoretical opening non-state actors came into view. In this chapter we will address why and what it means to study NGOs from a post-positivist perspective. We suggest that it is the notion of power and structure on which this perspective rests that is particularly useful when studying NGOs. It allows us to capture their agential and transformative potential, but also makes us aware of their biases and limitations. Before we turn to this argument and delineate how scholarship related to NGOs has evolved, we briefly depict what we take to be the main contours of post-positivism more generally.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.