Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: March 15, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412939645 | Print ISBN: 9781412916080 | Online ISBN: 9781412939645 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this handbook
Chapter 19: The Sociology of Voluntary Associations
BART BONIKOWSKI & MILLER MCPHERSON
The sociology of voluntary associations Voluntary associations, understood as “formally organized named groups, most of whose members—whether persons or organizations—are not financially recompensed for their participation” (Knoke 1986:2), have been both hailed as the building blocks of American democracy and disparaged as instruments of social exclusion that reproduce racial and ethnic conflict. Similarly, individuals’ membership in voluntary associations has been found to have important benefits for their economic, emotional, and mental well-being but also to reaffirm their negative social stereotypes. Regardless of which characteristics of voluntary associations one chooses to emphasize, one thing is certain: The United States has long been and continues to be a “nation of joiners” (Tocqueville  2000). The voluntary associations that operate in the United States serve a myriad of purposes, many of which supplement functions offered by the state and the private sector. These associations cover the full gamut of human activity, from economic ...