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The Dynamic Processes of Volunteering in Civil Society: A Group and Multi-Level Approach
Journal of Civil Society (2010)
  • Thomas Janoski, University of Kentucky
With new emphasis on civil advocacy and active citizenship, volunteering needs more of a group process and multi-level approach to civil society. A theoretical approach to doing this can be done in two ways. First, volunteering can be theorized as existing in informal networks with opinion leaders who provide information and recruit volunteers through a multi-step process. In these interpretive communities ‘being asked’ is socially organized, and opinion leaders lead to more directed volunteering through social movements in the next phase. Second, volunteering can be theoretically embedded within three levels of civil society consisting of: (1) the private sphere of conversations with friends and family, (2) the civil sphere of voluntary associations and organizations, and (3) the regulatory sphere of political, media, and economic institutions. Three processes operate in these spheres. Civil repair operates vertically between these spheres with voluntary associations that generate volunteering and then social movements that impact on the regulatory sphere to create improvements in society. Civil degradation does the opposite. Civil maintenance operates horizontally within spheres with volunteering promoting the status quo. The end result of this multi-level social approach makes volunteering a vertical and horizontal process that operates in the civil sphere in both conservative and radical ways. These two theoretical approaches suggest a sociological way of studying volunteering at both the micro- and macro-levels.
  • volunteering,
  • networks,
  • civil society,
  • voluntary organizations,
  • social movements
Publication Date
Citation Information
Thomas Janoski. "The Dynamic Processes of Volunteering in Civil Society: A Group and Multi-Level Approach" Journal of Civil Society Vol. 6 Iss. 2 (2010)
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