By the Masses or for the Masses? The Transformation of Voluntary Action in the Czech Union for Nature Protection


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Abstract

After the fall of state-socialism, efforts were made to build democracy by creating civil society organizations (CSOs) and forming independent nonprofit sectors across Central and Eastern Europe. However, most of these efforts ignored the mass organizations, state-sponsored interest groups, and quasi-independent associations in existence for many years. To understand how the transition affected existing associations and the forms of volunteerism they promoted, this paper investigates changes in the Czech Union for Nature Protection (ČSOP), an organization that has endured since 1979. Here, it is found that rather than retaining its emphasis on classical modes of voluntary action and participant interaction, ČSOP favors professionally managed activities designed to attract financial support. The case suggests that some of the participatory practices and collectivist norms advanced by associations in socialist times are being weakened as these groups attempt to secure the resources necessary to survive.

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