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Learning Democratic Attitudes and Skills: Politics and Volunteer Engagement

Abstract : Volunteer Activism Influence Political Attitudes and Behavior? In this chapter, we propose a reflection on the relationship between volunteering and political participation. We will ask ourselves whether the specific traits that characterize volunteer engagement in various forms, individual or associative networks, interpersonal links, and the cultures that develop through these activities can influence political attitudes and different forms of political participation. In recent years, Italian citizens have scarcely harboured positive feelings toward politics but have rather exhibited indifference and often anger toward parties and representative institutions. Their willingness to participate has not diminished, 14 has rather taken on other forms quite different from the parties themselves (volunteering, associations, movements). These tendencies had already begun manifesting themselves in Italy in the 1980s with the growth of volunteer commitment at a social, individual, or group level. The weight of social volunteering, oriented to the production of public goods, has increased in the last 20 years, while the influence of political parties has been reduced, and the forms of citizens’ participation have been transformed. In general, a considerable amount of research indicates a significant relationship between volunteering and political participation. However, the relationship can take several different forms and meanings depending upon the type of association to which the volunteers are linked and the possible ways of expressing political participation. On the other hand, a hypothesis may also be put forth that volunteering and political commitment are both influenced by the same social conditions of the volunteers as well as by the territorial contexts in which they operate. Based on the survey results of the Istat Aspects of Daily Life (ADL) of 2013, this chapter shows proofs of a socialisation effects of volunteering on political skills and behaviour, reducing inequalities in political participation. Especially, an inclusive group’s style reduces the effects of exclusion from democratic political participation structured by social inequalities. In 2013, associationism was confirmed as a true school of democracy, namely, for the work- ing classes. Finally, we note that political and social participation differ in relation to their distribution on the respondents’ respective territories. The levels of latent and visible political participation can be significantly influenced by the levels of civicness that traditionally differentiate across the Italian regions, as has been noted since the beginning of Putnam’s research in the 1980s. However, in all regional areas, the experience of volunteering and participation in social associations increases political participation. The influence of this experience is much more relevant in the southern regions where a more limited level of civic participation is traditionally reported. In territories where civicism is lower, not only associationism itself play a fundamental role in the production of public goods, but it also serves as a fundamental driver of the socialization to democratic values and practices, even more so than in other parts of the Bel Paese.
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Roberto Biorcio, Tommaso Vitale. Learning Democratic Attitudes and Skills: Politics and Volunteer Engagement. Riccardo Guidi; Ksenija Fonović; Tania Cappadozzi. Accounting for the Varieties of Volunteering. New Global Statistical Standards Tested, Springer, pp.287 - 308, 2021, 9783030705459. ⟨hal-03380948⟩



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