Manual Politics and Partnerships: The Role of Voluntary Associations in Americas Political Past and Present

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David Knoke and Xinxiang Chen

Using Cleveland as a case study, McQuarrie finds that community development corporations became institutional innovators inasmuch as they facilitated partnerships between actors in the community who drew on very different institutional logics. Other chapters in the book address how different actors have used the associational organizational form to covertly push their own private agendas.

Their burgeoning movement built a robust network of politically engaged associations and foundations that would further neoconservative ideals in government policymaking. But as many of the authors observe, it may be a normal part of the associational life cycle that they become bureaucratized or co-opted and lose some of that transformative potential once they have successfully initiated even moderate change. Associations arise to create a new community hub of innovation and change, only to later be captured by powerful members of that community seeking to use the association for its own instrumental purposes.

The repeating nature of this story in the history of American associations also suggests a strong likelihood that a new generation of associations will emerge to fill the space left behind by institutionalized associations. This is a hopeful message for American civic life, which the book so ably demonstrates depends on these associations for sustenance and vitality.


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The perhaps surprising message for organizational scholars is that the health of the other organizational fields that dominate our attention — like the corporate world or entrepreneurial organizations — also depends on a strong set of voluntary associations inasmuch as associations provide new templates for organizing and create intimate community links. For that message alone, this is a book that warrants our attention.

Posted in books , brayden , nonprofit , political science , sociology. Subscribe to comments with RSS. Clemens has done great work in general when it comes to the nonprofit sector. I have not seen this volume as of yet, but I will be sure to check it out based on your recommendation. I think we might be better suited as org theorists to continue to classify specific organizations as nonprofit and then by type and purpose. The definition has tended to privilege the small and grassroots, but the the changes in the nonprofit sector might necessitate another treatment, especially if we are interested in how nonprofits relate to the state.

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Scott — Good points. This is actually one of the main points of their book. Associationalism as Tocqueville knew it has fundamentally transformed into the nonprofit sector that we currently have. Of course, there are some real tradeoffs involved with this transformation i. Similar to arguments also made by Skocpol in her writings about civic engagement and most clearly in her book Diminished Democracy.

My only problem with the use of voluntary associations is that it hearkens back to Tocqueville, who was writing about a specific time period in the U.

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We are now dealing with a much stronger state system, alongside the growth of very large and powerful multinational corporations, within a money driven political system especially at the national level. I wonder if holding onto an idealized vision of grassroots mobilization and voluntary associations equates to an idealized hope for an alternative to what we actually have. Now if we want this to change, then the question probably turns to how we change the structures of power. And Clemens and social movement theorists might then become important in pointing out that there needs to be more mobilization from below and maybe even disruption a la Piven and Cloward thesis.

Indeed old types of voluntary associations might be essential in these instances. But I would argue in line with some of Skocpol that they would need allies that were large enough and controlled enough resources to get other powerful actors to pay attention. For me this is why professional and bureaucratic nonprofits are an essential development in the 20th century associational landscape.

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Daily Links for July 12th Akkam's Razor. Bringing together a diverse set of disciplinary approaches, "Politics and Partnerships" is a thorough examination of the place of voluntary associations in political history and an astute investigation into contemporary experiments in reshaping that role. The essays here reveal the key role nonprofits have played in the evolution of both the workplace and welfare and illuminate the way the government's retreat from welfare has radically altered the relationship between nonprofits and corporations. Passar bra ihop. China and Globalization Doug Guthrie.

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