Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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Planetary Citizens: U.S. NGOs and the Struggle Over Globalization, 1972-1989

January 1, 2011

In January 1997 Jessica Matthews, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine titled, "Power Shift," arguing that after centuries of international relations defined by nation-states as the central actors, global politics was experiencing a fundamental transformation into a world of multiple influential players. Nationstates, in her estimation, would increasingly have to share their power with international institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and multinational corporations. Furthermore, Matthews stated that non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as international human rights and development organizations would, despite their often small sizes and budgets, "increasingly . . . push around even the largest governments. Matthews' article was not alone in viewing a growing role for NGOs in international affairs; particularly in the 1990s, many international relations and political science scholars discussed this trend. However, relatively little has been written by historians on the growth of NGOs as a global presence. As the diplomatic historian Akira Iriye has argued, this is problematic, because ?the bulk of the political science literature remains nonhistorical . . . tend[ing] to focus on very recent developments or current phenomena," without providing a broader historical context.

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