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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Civil society may be defined as both a space in society and a collection of certain types of actor. As a space, it exists alongside the state and markets; as a set of actors, it interacts with a range of governmental bodies and businesses. Over the past three or four decades, neoliberal globalisation has dramatically changed the distribution of power across society, while also institutionalising a set of policies that have diminished the role of the state, undermined democracy, and established the dominance of market logic. These developments have influenced both international health policy and the structures of global governance. Furthermore, they have also shaped the nature of civil society’s participation in global health policy and governance. Crucially, civil society does not merely intervene in global health politics from outside, but is itself sculpted by the ideologies and political conditions that surround it. This chapter explores the political nature of civil society and its relationship to global health politics, including the political nature of new non-state actors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the emergence of global health partnerships, which have ostensibly increased civil society involvement in global health governance. It argues that civil society participation in global health governance tends to represent powerful and hegemonic interests rather than those most in need. It also discusses how current political, economic and technological developments will influence civil society’s participation in global health politics, and shape the challenges faced by society more generally.

Keywords: civil society, neoliberalism, global health governance, philanthrocapitalism, corporate power

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