A profound reshaping of the relationship between the third sector and state and non-state actors in the new welfare spaces after the economic crash poses questions about how these spaces are co-constructed by actors within them. Third sector scholarship has typically sought to address these questions as if third sector organisations were injured parties being compelled to adapt to survive, and this is matched by a lack of theoretical and empirical attention to the active role played by third sector organisations in constructing these spaces. This article offers a critique of a third sector paradigm for being too rooted in rational actor and historical institutionalism, too focused on organisational adaptation to existing norms and too passive. It argues for a radically decentred interpretivist methodology that will capture the intense struggle over meaning that constitutes civil society and in which third sector narratives are themselves rhetorical weapons.
- Third Sector