Civil Society and Governance in Europe
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Civil Society and Governance in Europe

From National to International Linkages

Edited by William A. Maloney and Jan W. van Deth

The contributors to this new book analyse the opportunities for civil society associations to contribute to European integration and decision-making from various perspectives. The research demonstrates that the Europeanization process – in terms of civil society actors adapting to the European political space – has an uneven development.
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Chapter 9: The Role of Interest Groups in Fostering Citizen Engagement: The Determinants of Outside Lobbying

Christine Mahoney


Christine Mahoney 9.1 INTRODUCTION1 Zimmer and Friese’s contribution to this volume (Chapter 2) makes a strong case for recognising the two components of civil society scholarship: social capital and third sector. This chapter focuses on the latter – the role of third sector organisations in mobilising the public and thus fostering citizen engagement and social capital. However, I argue that citizen mobilisation is not restricted to organisations that would traditionally fall into the normatively charged category of third sector or civil society organisations, which either implicitly or explicitly are said to be representing the public interest. If the concern is the way the EU can communicate through the multiple levels of multi-level governance and reach the EU citizens, then any route by which that might happen should be embraced and studied. Other interest groups, including trade, professional, business and regional associations, can also communicate EU issues to the public. Thus this chapter considers how civil society and third sector organisations communicate to the public, but also how other members of the EU advocacy community do this. The terms ‘lobbyist’ and ‘special interests’ are often met with a less than warm reception on both sides of the Atlantic.2 Today interest groups are seen as a force derailing democracy from its proper course, packing policy with special interest exceptions at the expense of the common good. However, some further thinking of course reminds us of the reality that the interest group community includes the very groups that scholars of social capital championed as...

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