Between individualization and participation : engagement in association-linked volunteer work
Comparing two types of volunteer-work commitment or engagement, the neighborhood activist type and the charity type, leads to positing that the cornerstone of the meaning of contemporary association-linked volunteer-work engagement is the identity-founding that is realized through associative affiliation. In a social context where institutions are being recomposed and a high value is placed on individual autonomy, doing volunteer work represents a potential stimulant for identity construction in that it offers the individual a renewed collective framework. The ability of volunteer-work engagement to reconcile individualization and social participation is what explains the central position such engagement is likely to occupy with respect to social-identity mechanisms. Underlying the two forces that drive this kind of engagement, namely, ethics and pleasure, are 1) the contemporary imperative of realizing a unique, autonomous self – this in turn explains rejection of high religious or political morality, the individualized relation to ethics repertoires and to association arguments themselves, and the emergence of a hedonistic dimension closely linked to the individual’s relation to self – and 2) a will to participate socially, which is revealed by the values mobilized in volunteer-work engagement but also by the dialogical nature of the pleasure emergence sources, a will that becomes necessity within a framework of identity negotiation that requires otherness. Because association volunteer work allows the fundamental « individualization-participation » and is replayed, it is one socializing activity among others and should be analyzed as such.