The Government of Associations: Selections from the Behavioral Sciences

The Government of Associations: Selections from the Behavioral Sciences

The Government of Associations: Selections from the Behavioral Sciences

The Government of Associations: Selections from the Behavioral Sciences


Voluntary associations are a familiar and essential part of modern society, but few books have been written about them. There are some interesting but essentially journalistic descriptions of the role of voluntary associations in American life; there are some training manuals prepared for the use of professional and volunteer leaders; and there are some sociological analyses of individual voluntary associations. Some of the selections in this book of readings are drawn from this handful of sociological studies.

A full-scale analysis of the organization, activities, and accomplishments of voluntary associations is sorely needed; preparing it would be a formidable undertaking; and in the end it would probably be of interest primarily to behavioral scientists. We have attempted to achieve a more modest goal by preparing this book of readings; it is our hope that it will find an audience both within and beyond the audience of behavioral scientists.


The book consists of 47 selections from books, journals, and research reports in the behavioral sciences. Twenty-seven of the 50 contributors are sociologists; six are political scientists; five are psychologists; and four each are from the fields of anthropology, business administration, and social work. By design, none of them is primarily a professional in the field of national organizations, for the book has been planned to report research results rather than the experience of informed insiders.

The behavioral sciences are a new grouping of fields that have traditionally belonged to the social sciences. Since the grouping is new, the boundaries are not firm, but it is widely agreed that the behavioral sciences include at their center those portions of sociology, anthropology, psychology, and political science that study human behavior at first hand, i.e., by observing and interviewing people. In that sense they differ from the other social sciences, which for the most part study human behavior at second hand--through the analysis of census data, artifacts, economic statistics, government documents, and the written record of mankind. The name is newer than the methods, and its creation a decade ago seems to have had a healthy influence on the social sciences. It is difficult to say whether it is cause or effect, but the past decade has certainly witnessed an increased level of collaboration both within the social sciences and between the social sciences and such related disciplines as education, genetics, law, and psychiatry.

The behavioral sciences attempt to describe and explain human behavior; their concern is with how people do behave rather than with how they should behave. Accordingly, most of the selections in this book are reports of empirical research, rather than directives for action. Occasionally behavioral scientists do make recommendations, and a few practical advisory essays are included. We have tried to recognize our responsibility to those readers who want or need translations from research reports into prescriptions for action: we have selected materials that seem to us to have rather obvious implications for professional and volunteer leaders; we have given the selections titles and arranged them into parts and chapters that help . . .

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