Procedural Characteristics of Legitimate Partner NGOs

  • Dorothea BaurEmail author
Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET, volume 36)


This chapter argues that procedural characteristics yield the most accurate distinctions amongst the three actor types. NGOs and interest groups can be distinguished by their style of reasoning and their orientation towards consensual behavior, and by the fact that claims of the kind that “legitimate partner NGOs” advocate, refer to a generalizable interest. The preferred pattern of communication for resolving such claims is deliberation. Hence, an actor’s inclination to deliberate indicates that he or she is advocating public claims rather than particularistic interests, and thus is acting as a “legitimate partner NGO” rather than an interest group. Procedural characteristics also enable us to tell NGOs apart from activists. Legitimate NGOs are primarily oriented towards discursive behaviour. Justifications of non-deliberative behaviour essentially rely on the principle of exhaustion, that is, on the requirement that deviation from deliberation is only allowed if all deliberative means have been exhausted. But all deviations operate under the proviso of civil behaviour. Within this proviso three circumstances in which deviation from deliberation can be justified are identified: Deviating from discursive means is justified if a corporation refuses to enter into dialogue with an NGO. Confrontational but still discursive behaviour is justified if deep value conflicts inhibit consensual discourse. Non-discursive confrontational civil behavior, i.e. civil disobedience, is justified in adverse political circumstances. But regardless of whether the circumstances justify deviation from deliberative behaviour, it is important that we admit various forms of speech to deliberation in order to allow the innovative and emancipatory function of NGOs to persist.


Civil disobedience Confrontation Consensual behavior Discursive behavior Rhetoric Bargaining, Negotiation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of St. Gallen, Institute for Business EthicsSt. GallenSwitzerland

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