John Keane, a leading scholar of political theory, tracks the recent development of a big idea with fresh potency - global civil society. In this timely book, Keane explores the contradictory forces currently nurturing or threatening its growth, and he shows how talk of global civil society implies a political vision of a less violent world, founded on legally sanctioned power-sharing arrangements among different and intermingling forms of socio-economic life. Keane's reflections are pitted against the widespread feeling that the world is both too complex and too violent to deserve serious reflection. His account borrows from various scholarly disciplines, including political science and international relations, to challenge the silence and confusion within much of contemporary literature on globalisation and global governance. Against fears of terrorism, rising tides of xenophobia, and loose talk of 'anti-globalisation', the defence of global civil society mounted here implies the need for new democratic ways of living.