For the past half a century, Latin American scholars have been pointing toward the emergence of new social actors as agents of social and political democratization. The first wave of actors was characterized by the emergence of novel agents—mainly, new popular movements—of social transformation. At first, the second wave, epitomized by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), was celebrated as the upsurge of a new civil society, but later on, it was the target of harsh criticism. The literature often portrays this development in Latin American civil society as a displacement trend of actors of the first wave by the second wave—“NGOization”—and even denounces new civil society as rootless, depoliticized, and functional to retrenchment. Thus, supposedly, NGOization encumbers social change. The authors argue that NGOization diagnosis is a flawed depiction of change within civil society. Rather than NGOization related to the depoliticization and neoliberalization of civil society, in Mexico City and São Paulo, there has been modernization of organizational ecologies, changes in the functional status of civil society, and interestingly, specialization aimed at shaping public agenda. The authors argue that such specialization, instead of encumbering social change, brings about different repertoires of strategies and skills purposively developed for influencing policy and politics. Their argument relies on comparative systematic evidence. Through network analysis, they examine the organizational ecology of civil society in Mexico City and São Paulo.

Waves of Change within Civil Society in Latin America: Mexico City and São Paulo’, AdrianGurzaLavalle and NatáliaS.BuenoPolitics & Society, 39 (3) (2011): 415–449. Published by SAGE Publications, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
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