Against a background of concerns about the ability of advanced capitalist states to meet the welfare needs of their populations, the erosion of citizenship and declining social capital, voluntarism is increasingly presented in political and academic discourses as a ‘panacea’ to social and political problems facing liberal democracies. Building on human geographers' established interests in this field, this paper focuses on contemporary developments in voluntarism within advanced capitalist states. It examines how national programmes of welfare reform in the UK and the USA are affecting voluntary organizations and their ability to contribute to the welfare of local populations, and how place-based differences in the nature and meaning of voluntary activity are impacting on strategies to promote active citizenship and social capital. The paper concludes by highlighting some of the empirical, methodological and theoretical limitations of current geographical perspectives on voluntarism in order to suggest ways in which research in this field can move forward.
- Social capital
- Social policy