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Durham University

Policy, Professions and Communities Research Group


Publication details for Professor Tony Chapman

Chapman, T. & McGuinness, B. (2013). Consuming values in a social market: making choices about volunteering and non-volunteering. Social and Public Policy Review 7(1): 1-17.

Author(s) from Durham


Researchers have examined how many people get involved in formal voluntary action; who is most likely to do so; and, assess what benefit people feel they gain. Few have considered why people choose to champion one cause over another and why some people choose not to volunteer. This theoretical article draws on anthropological analysis by Mary Douglas on consumption to argue that when people choose to volunteer or not, decisions are affected by deeply embedded cultural factors. The analysis provides insights into the limits of what researchers can know about the motivation to volunteer and how people choose causes. It also questions assumptions about the potential to increase the volunteer workforce because people find it difficult to give entirely open answers to questions about why they choose not to volunteer.