Top-Down Civic Projects Are Not Grassroots Associations: How The Differences Matter in Everyday Life

Original Paper

Abstract

Research on civic associations blurs an important distinction between the unfunded, informal, ongoing associations that theorists like de Tocqueville described versus current participatory democracy projects that are funded by the state and large nongovernmental organizations, are open to all, and are usually short-term. Based on a long-term ethnography of youth programs in the United States, this paper shows that entities like these, which participants and researchers alike often called “volunteer” or “civic” groups, operate very differently from traditional civic groups. The ethnography systematically details prevalent tensions that actors face when they try to cultivate the civic spirit in these increasingly typical organizations.

Keywords

Participatory democracy Civic associations Hybrid governance Empowerment Volunteering United States 

Résumé

La recherche sur les associations civiques estompe une distinction importante entre les associations actuelles non-subventionnées, informelles, que les théoriciens comme de Tocqueville décrivent par opposition aux projets de la démocratie participative présente qui sont subventionnés par l’état et les grandes organisations non gouvernementales, sont ouverts à tous, et sont habituellement à court terme. Basé sur une ethnographie à long terme des programmes de la jeunesse aux Etats-Unis, cet article montre que ces entités, que les participants et chercheurs aiment souvent appeler groupes « bénévoles » ou « civiques », opèrent très différemment des groupes civiques traditionnels. L’ethnographie détaille systématiquement les tensions courantes que les protagonistes rencontrent lorsqu’ils essaient de cultiver l’esprit civique dans ces organisations de plus en plus typiques.

Zusammenfassung

Forschungsarbeit über Bürgervereinigungen verwischt einen wichtigen Unterschied zwischen den nicht finanzierten, informellen, permanenten Vereinigungen, die Theoretiker wie de Tocqueville beschrieben haben, und den gegenwärtigen Projekten „mitbestimmende Demokratie“, die vom Staat und großen nichtstaatlichen Organisationen finanziert werden, allen offen stehen und gewöhnlich befristet sind. Basierend auf einer langfristigen ethnographischen Studie über Jugendprogramme in den USA zeigt dieser Artikel, dass die Organisationen, die sowohl von Teilnehmern als auch von Forscher oft als “freiwillige” oder “Bürger”-Gruppen genannt werden, ganz anders als traditionelle Bürgergruppen operieren. Die ethnografische Studie detailliert systematisch allgemein vorhandene Spannungen, denen Akteure gegenüberstehen, wenn sie versuchen, Bürgerstolz in diesen zunehmend typischen Organisationen zu kultivieren.

Resumen

Los estudios sobre las asociaciones cívicas cuestionan la importante distinción entre las asociaciones actuales, informales y sin financiación que describían teóricos como De Tocqueville frente a los actuales proyectos democráticos participativos que están financiados por el estado y las grandes organizaciones no gubernamentales, que están abiertos a todos y son a corto plazo. Basado en un estudio etnográfico a largo plazo de los programas juveniles en los Estados Unidos, este trabajo demuestra que las entidades como éstas ―que los participantes y los investigadores suelen llamar grupos «cívicos» o «de voluntarios»― funcionan de manera muy distinta a como lo hacían los tradicionales grupos cívicos. El estudio etnográfico detalla sistemáticamente las tensiones dominantes que afrontan los actores cuando intentan cultivar el espíritu cívico en estas organizaciones cada vez más típicas.

摘要

在关于民间团体的研究中,有条重要的界限往往显得模糊不清:一边是无资金援助、长期存在的非正式团体(如托克维尔(de Tocqueville)等理论学家所述),另一边是当前的参与民主式的项目,后者接受政府或者大型非政府组织的资助,对所有人开放,并且常常是短期的。本文以美国的一项青年人种学长期计划为依据论述了一个观点:那些常常被参与者和研究者称之为“志愿者”或者“民间”团体的组织,其运作方式其实与传统的民间团体大相径庭。一些人努力在这些越来越具有代表性的机构中培植公民精神,他们当中普遍存在精神紧张的问题,人种学对此进行了详细系统的探讨。

要約

市民団体の研究では、非公式および進行中の組織は重要な区別があいまいになることがある。例えば、デ・トクビルのような理論家は通常、短期間もしくは全期間に公開されている、州および大規模な非政府団体によると資金供給された、現在の参加型デモクラシープロジェクトについて主張している。本論文は、アメリカのユースプログラムにおける長期の民族誌学に基づき、関係者や研究者が「ボランティア」もしくは、「市民のつながり」のグループと呼ばれ、従来の市民団体と非常に異なる実態を持つことを提示する。ますます増加する従来の組織において公民意識が培かわれる場合、民族誌学は、主体が直面する一般的な緊張関係について系統的に明示すると考える

ملخص

البحث في الجمعيات المدنية يطمس أهمية التمييز بين الغير ممول ، الغير رسمي ، الجمعيات الجارية التي وصفها واضعي النظريات مثل دو توكوفيل (de Tocqeville) مقابل المشاريع الديمقراطية المشاركة و التي يتم تمويلها من ِقبل الدولة والمنظمات غير الحكومية الكبيرة ، ومفتوحة أمام الجميع ، وعادة ما تكون قصيرة الأجل. على أساس برامج الشباب الإثنوغرافية طويلة الأمل في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية ، هذا البحث يوضح أن الكيانات مثل تلك ، التي عادة ما يطلق على المشاركين و الباحثين أنهم “متطوعون” أو مجموعات “مدنية”، تعمل بطريقة مختلفة جدا من المجموعات المدنية التقليدية. إن منهجية أثنوغرافيا تقدم تفاصيل التوترات التي تواجه العاملون حين يحاولون غرس روح المدنية في هذه المنظمات النموذجية المتزايدة.

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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The John's Hopkins University 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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