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More than a little act of kindness?: Towards a typology of volunteering as unpaid work

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Abstract

Definitions of volunteering are widespread and complex, yet relatively little attention is given to volunteering as unpaid work, even though it intersects with the worlds of paid employment and the domestic sphere, cutting across individual/collective and public/private spaces. This article advances a typology of volunteering work (altruistic, instrumental, militant and forced volunteering/’voluntolding’) that illuminates the complexity and dynamism of volunteering. Using qualitative data from a study of 30 volunteers to explore practices of volunteering as they unfold in daily life, the typology provides much-needed conceptual building blocks for a theory of ‘volunteering as unpaid work’. This perspective helps transcend the binaries prevalent in the sociology of work and provides a lens to rethink what counts as work in contemporary society. It also invites further research about the effects of ‘voluntolding’ on individuals and society, and on the complex relationship between volunteering work and outcomes at a personal and collective level.

Acceptance Date Jan 9, 2017
Publication Date Feb 1, 2017
Journal Sociology
Print ISSN 0038-0385
Publisher SAGE Publications
Pages 1239-1256
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038517692512
Keywords altruism, collectivism, individualism, sociology of work, volunteering, ‘voluntolding’, unpaid work
Publisher URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038038517692512

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