A sociological analysis of intermediary non-governmental organizations and land reform in contemporary Zimbabwe

by Helliker, K.D.

Abstract (Summary)
The thesis offers an original sociological understanding of intermediary Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the modern world. This is pursued through a study of NGOs and land reform in contemporary Zimbabwe.

The prevailing literature on NGOs is marked by a sociological behaviourism that analyses NGOs in terms of external relations and the object-subject dualism. This behaviourism has both ‘structuralist’ and ‘empiricist’ trends that lead to instrumentalist and functionalist forms of argumentation.

The thesis details an alternative conceptual corpus that draws upon the epistemological and theoretical insights of Marx and Weber. The epistemological reasoning of Marx involves processes of deconstruction and reconstruction. This entails conceptualizing NGOs as social forms that embody contradictory relations and, for analytical purposes, the thesis privileges the contradiction between ‘the global’ and ‘the local’. In this regard, it speaks about processes of ‘glocalization’ and ‘glocal modernities’ in which NGOs become immersed.

The social field of NGOs is marked by ambiguities and tensions, and NGOs seek to ‘negotiate’ and manoeuvre their way through this field by a variety of organizational practices. Understanding these practices necessitates studying NGOs ‘from within’ and drawing specifically on Weber’s notion of ‘meaning’. These practices often entail activities that stabilize and simplify the world and work of NGOs, and this involves NGOs in prioritizing their own organizational sustainability. In handling the tension between ‘the global’ and ‘the local’, NGOs also tend to privilege global trajectories over local initiatives.

The thesis illustrates these points in relation to the work of intermediary NGOs in Zimbabwe over the past ten years. Since the year 2000, a radical restructuring of agrarian relations has occurred, and this has been based upon the massive redistribution of land. In this respect, local empowering initiatives have dramatically asserted themselves against globalizing trajectories. These changes have posed serious challenges to ‘land’ NGOs, that is, NGOs involved in land reform either as advocates for reform or as rural development NGOs. The thesis shows how a range of diverse ‘land’ NGOs has ‘handled’ the heightened contradictions in their social field in ways that maintain their organizational coherence and integrity.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:sociology and industrial


Date of Publication:01/01/2007

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