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Nongovernmental Organizations in Environmental Struggles

Nongovernmental Organizations in Environmental Struggles: Politics and the Making of Moral Capital in the Philippines

Raymond L. Bryant
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Nongovernmental Organizations in Environmental Struggles
    Book Description:

    Why are nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) so successful in today's world? How do they empower themselves? This insightful book provides important new perspectives on the strategic thinking of NGOs, the way they identify themselves, and how they behave. Raymond L. Bryant develops a novel theoretical perspective around the concept of moral capital and assesses that concept through in-depth case studies of NGOs in the Philippines.The book's focus is on perceptions of NGOs as moral and altruistic and how such perceptions can translate into social power. Bryant examines the ambiguous qualities of NGO strategizing, the ways in which the quest for moral capital is bedeviled by the need to compromise with political and economic elites, and the possibilities for NGOs to achieve political goals as moral leaders.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13283-0
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book reflects a longstanding personal interest in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental struggles. That interest initially found expression through support for environmental organizations in the First World. In the 1990s I related this experience to research on Third World politicized environments, with an initial attempt appearing in the bookThird World Political Ecology(Bryant and Bailey 1997). The conclusion there was that the social and political impact of environmental NGOs was decidedly ambiguous. There was certainly evidence to suggest that they had prompted powerful actors such as states, businesses, and international financial institutions to change their practice. Yet there...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Capitalizing on the Midas Touch
    (pp. 9-32)

    To the extent that NGOs are culturally resourceful, they can turn moral concerns and perceptions into a capacity to act. That they may be seen to behave altruistically arguably enhances an ability to promote a favored mission. Yet to describe NGOs thus does not help us to understandhowthey translate a perceived high-mindedness into action. Indeed, there may even be a tension between thinking of NGOs as “benevolent visionaries” and thinking about them as “hard-nosed pragmatists” that must compromise.

    This tension resonates in the literature. A “utopian” school is epitomized by the work of Korten (1990). His argument is...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Quest for Moral Capital
    (pp. 33-60)

    One way to appreciate how culture and political economy connect is to describe diverse cultural processes as noneconomic forms of capital. This phrase suggests a world in which individuals and organizations seek to convert noneconomic capital into an economic form (and vice versa). It is also metaphorical, in that it conjures an image of cultural processes shaped by logics of accumulation and consumption commonly associated with the economic domain.

    A well-known example of this sort of thinking relates questions of sociability (or social capital) to issues of collective and individual comfort. The emphasis is on social networks and the relative...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Doing “Good” in the Philippines
    (pp. 61-81)

    However culturally resourceful, NGOs rarely go far in the absence of social misery or environmental degradation. They thrive where things go badly, and hence where moral visions and social prophecies take root most readily. The presence of NGOs in any great number thus bespeaks a land caught between hope and despair, a place of resistance and acquiescence. The Philippines is one such “singular and plural place.” It is a place of immense wealth and grinding poverty. It is a global biodiversity “hotspot” and a world leader in environmental degradation. In short, it is a land of contradictions possessing conditions propitious...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Political Virtuosity
    (pp. 82-117)

    A quest for moral capital may be reflected in political strategizing by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Political tools are needed to help organizations get the most from relationships with state agencies, community groups, and others. These relationships vary, but general patterns can be identified at least insofar as our two case studies are concerned. They probably apply to a greater or lesser extent to other organizations as well.

    A multifaceted approach to the state is developed through critical engagementandconstructive engagement. The balancing of cooperation and criticism is termedcritical engagementto emphasize the ambiguous nature of this relationship. Such...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Financing Prophets
    (pp. 118-163)

    Funding is widely seen as the Achilles heel of NGOs inasmuch as the need for cash can lead them into dubious tradeoffs at odds with their mission. They sometimes become, in the title of one work, “too close for comfort” to donors and to government (Hulme and Edwards 1997a). There is a paradox here. For many, one of the strengths of NGOs is their not-for-profit status because it appears to reinforce perceived moral and altruistic qualities (Korten 1990; Sogge 1996a; Slim 1997). Increasingly, though, this status is seen as a source of weakness. Being a not-for-profit operation seemingly condemns NGOs...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Mapping the Mission
    (pp. 164-201)

    In addition to political and economic action taken by NGOs in the quest for moral capital, their function as spatial and territorial actors also relates to that quest. Little considered in the literature, this aspect is vital to a rounded understanding of NGO practice. Where do NGOs undertake their work and why do they make these choices? Are there “no-go” areas, and if so, why are they off limits? How do NGOs interact spatially? Are there patterns in locations that are reflective of territorial strategizing? How do these concerns relate to moral capital?

    To the extent that NGOs are moral...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion: Morality Plays
    (pp. 202-216)

    Much behavior by the NGOs examined in this book may be summarized in two words: morality plays. There are various meanings, but let me highlight two. The first is concerned with dramaturgy, as NGOs give a finely tuned performance on environment and development matters, “playing” to an audience of partners. To generate an image for doing “good” through a story spun from words and deeds is to attempt to build reputation. The second meaning reveals what morality can “do” for NGOs—it is about a particular sort of strategizing. Here, NGOs would link their names to moral issues or “causes,”...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 217-224)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-262)
  14. Index
    (pp. 263-270)