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Civil Society Reconsidered: The Durable Nature and Community Structure of Collective Civic Action

Rob Sampson, Doug McAdam, Heather MacIndoe, and Simon Weffer.  2005.  “Civil Society Reconsidered: The Durable Nature and Community Structure of Collective Civic Action.”  American Journal of Sociology 111: 673-714.

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This article develops a conceptual framework on civil society that shifts the dominant focus on individuals to collective action events— civic and protest alike—that bring people together in public to realize a common purpose. Analyzing over 4,000 events in the Chicago area from 1970 to 2000, the authors find that while civic engagement is durable overall, “sixties-style” protest declines, and hybrid events that combine public claims making with civic forms of behavior — what they call “blended social action”—increase. Furthermore, dense social ties, group memberships, and neighborly exchange do not predict community variations in collective action. The density of nonprofit organizations matters instead, suggesting that declines in traditional social capital may not be as consequential for civic capacity as commonly thought.

American Journal of Sociology
2005
Rob Sampson
Heather MacIndoe
Simon Weffer