Beyond Choice: 'Thick' Volunteering and the case of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Michelle O'Toole, Christopher Grey

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This article problematizes the dominant assumption in the literature on volunteer work that it is undertaken primarily as a matter of individual choice. Using findings from a qualitative study of volunteers at the not-for-profit organization, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, it is shown that volunteering exists within a dense web of social relations, especially familial and communal relations, so that volunteering is recursively constituted by structure and agency. The concept of ‘thick volunteering’ is developed to denote how in some cases these social relations, especially when the work involved is dangerous, may make volunteering especially significant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-109
Number of pages25
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number1
Early online date30 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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