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The Ages of VoluntarismHow we got to the Big Society$
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Matthew Hilton and James McKay

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264829

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264829.001.0001

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Associational voluntarism in interwar Britain

Associational voluntarism in interwar Britain

(p.47) 3 Associational voluntarism in interwar Britain
The Ages of Voluntarism

Helen McCarthy

British Academy

This chapter examines the interwar voluntary sector to demonstrate that associational life did not come to be dominated by the ideologies of class and mass political parties, but rather continued to develop an independent voice, oriented towards support for liberal democracy more generally. Considering organisations such as the League of Nations Union, the National Council of Women, the Club and Institute Union, and the British Legion, it outlines the ‘ideological work’ performed by voluntary associations: educating and socialising the new mass electorate into the workings of the liberal democratic system; and assisting in the democratisation of social relations. While class, gender and religious stratification continued to exist, significant ecumenism and gender- and class-mixing meant there was ‘a democratising logic at work’.

Keywords:   League of Nations Union, National Council of Women, Club and Institute Union, British Legion, voluntarism, liberal democracy, democratisation

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