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2 Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Q. 2 (1973)

handle is hein.journals/npvolsq2 and id is 1 raw text is: 


Sophia Peterson & Virgil A. Peterson
West Virginia University

This paper surveys voluntary associations
in ancient Greece beginning with their known
origins (the tribal hetaery of warriors)
and concluding with the great profusion of
associations in the Hellenistic period.
In the course of this survey, we describe
the purposes and operation of these
associations and their social settings.
We conclude that voluntary associations,
in many ways similar to contemporary ones,
enjoyed a lively existence in ancient Greece.


To seek a precise definition of voluntary
associations is to enter a labyrinth as
bewildering as the one devised by Daedalus
to confuse the Minotaur.  No current
definition is entirely satisfactory, and
recent discussions of the definitional
problem have dropped back to pre-definitional
postures.  As Bode remarks, a completely
satisfactory definition of voluntary associa-
tions seems less possible than a set of
considerations for developing a definition
or several definitions  (Smith, et al, 1972,
p. 63).  Warner's essay in the same volume
(pp. 71-80) approaches definition by  listing
ten of the characteristics attributed to
voluntary associations in many past studies.
From his list the following are most perti-
nent to this study:

1.) voluntary involvement  (i.e., the degree
to which the acts within  an organization are
acts of free will exercised  without legal
coercion, monetary reward,  or other sources
of outer direction);

2.) secondary importance  (i.e., family and/or
occupation normally precede  the voluntary
association in importance  to the participant);

3.) normative inducement  (i.e., the values
and ideals which bind and guide  the group, not
salary, legal coercion, or  advancement in the

4.) specialization of interests  (i.e.,
voluntary associations tend not  to engage a
wide spectrum of interests but  rather to be
relatively narrow as measured  against the range
of an individual's potential  interests---a club
is more likely to be focused on  chess, say,
than on recreation or leisure  in general);

5.) low degree of organization  (i.e., as
compared with other organizations,  voluntary
associations have a relatively  low degree of
formal organization in their practice,  though
their written rhetoric may imply  formality);

6.) private organization  (i.e., not govern-
mental, nor formally accountable  to the public
or other external structures  for their
behavior).  (Cf. Babchuk and Edwards, 1965,
pp. 149-162; Brinton, in  Seligman, 1937, p. 574;
and Lowie, 1960, pp. 3,  14, 295-307, and 316).

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