These efforts are linked to the sociological critique of modernity. The writings of Bauman (1991) and Taylor (1991) actually resonate with the ideas of Muslim scholars and intellectuals who criticize the social malaise of modernity and the atomistic nature of modern ‘togetherness’. The ‘urbanized lonely crowd’ is characterised by apathy, and an unwillingness or inability to bear the moral responsibility of political decisions; it is easier to go along with authority, even if it leads to violent conflict, than to express dissent or act as a moral agent in challenging the nation state. If the outcome is the ‘end of public man’, then civility itself is at risk. Globalisation can be regarded as an extension of modernity, ever increasing the scale and anonymity of global cities, speeding up the loss of identity, allowing people’s lives to be shaped by market forces, and stretching the distance between the citizen and political authority. But at the same time, by challenging the autonomy of the nation state, generating new overlapping forms of authority (global, national, local) and shifting the balance between the market and the state, globalisation offers new spaces for recovering civility. If global civil society is to play a role in combating violence and fostering civility, it has to be through revitalising public man and woman, through restoring social networks and implementing survival strategies that would allow people to claim moral responsibility and challenge the uncontested monopoly of the nation state over the relations of power, the definition of order and the use of ‘legitimate’ violence.
Globalisation processes penetrate and change the ‘causal chemistry’ and ‘fabric’ of existing conflicts as well as emerging and re-emerging ones. By involving more frequent movements of objects, meanings and people across transnational space, they lead to a greater exposure of different audiences to each other, and to more frequent and intense contact between world views. Such contacts may challenge or reinforce long-held cultural assumptions about the world, identity and meaning, and they may also increase the frequency of ‘meshing’ and depths of interpenetration, including acceptance and rejection as well as patterns of innovation and diffusion. Whatever the outcome, such contacts also contribute to greater conflict potential (see Anheier and Isar 2007).
At the same time, a new challenge has arisen and threatens state institutions and hence also civil society. In part it arises from, and is assisted by, the same set of globalising forces that favour the rise of civil society, and this affinity is sufficient for many to discredit the ‘civilising power’ of civil society altogether. Terror groups operate across borders employing the new means of communication, transportation, media and messaging, including smart weapons. They appeal to values that are beyond the nation-state and at the same time exploit the freedoms of movement, association and speech that the democratic state serves to protect. They attack non-military targets and the civilian population. Indeed, they are an even greater challenge to civil society than they are to the state.
The last three centuries have experienced the evolution of civil society through alternating periods of peace and war, while the transformation of technology and economy present it with a quite different set of challenges from those it faced in the revolutionary period of Western history. But the idea of global civil society is just as much borne by, and a response to, globalisation as eighteenth century civil society was inextricably linked with the rise of capitalism. Violence could not be ignored then, and neither can we fail to respond to the popular and political currents following the events of 9/11 and their aftermath.
These diverse responses indicate the complex causes and effects of the movement of labour, an increasingly significant feature of globalisation, the extent and impact of which civil society, nation states and institutions of regional and global governance have begun to consider in recent years (Klein Solomon and Bartsch 2003; Aleinikoff 2002).