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Voluntary Agencies in the Welfare State

Ralph M. Kramer, Harold L. Wilensky (Foreword by)


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Hardcover (1/8/2021)


The rise of the welfare state threatens the autonomy and survival of nonprofit voluntary agencies as providers of social services. Or does it?
In this cross-national, empirical study of the workings of voluntary agencies, Ralph M. Kramer cuts through the conceptual confusion surrounding voluntarism and the boundaries between the public and private sectors. He draws on a survey of voluntary agencies helping disabled people in four welfare democracies (the United States, England, Israel, and the Netherlands) to explain the virtues and flaws of different patterns of government-voluntary relationships in coping with the growing demand for human services.
Kramer concludes that many of the most cherished beliefs about the voluntary sector have little basis in fact. The most innovative agencies, for example, are not the smallest, but rather among the largest, most bureaucratized, and most professionalized. Government funding does not necessarily constrain agency autonomy. And giving voluntary agencies the primary responsibility for social services can reduce, not increase, citizen participation.
This comparative analysis of the distinctive competence, vulnerability, and potential of the voluntary agency should replace some of the myths that guide public policy and the day-to-day activities of social service agencies.
 This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1981.

University of California Press, 9780520304635, 368pp.

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

About the Author

Ralph M. Kramer is Professor Emeritus at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley.