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Civil society, class and locality

Civil society, class and locality

Tenant groups in post-war Britain

(p.94) 5 Civil society, class and locality
The Ages of Voluntarism
Peter Shapely
British Academy

This chapter returns working-class agency to the analysis of voluntarism. As it demonstrates with reference to tenants' associations, the voluntary sector was shaped as much by working-class as middle-class culture, even at the height of the welfare state, with the provision of services generating engagement rather than apathy. Tenants' associations provided a vehicle for the assertion of working-class interests in the face of an often unresponsive bureaucracy. In doing so they ‘helped to create a new decision-making arena, making a contribution to expanded notions of democracy’. That they managed to do so while engaging tenants from across the political spectrum demonstrates ‘the essential flexibility and robustness of the voluntary organization as a form which continued to provide an effective platform for the development of civil society’.

Keywords:   working class, voluntarism, tenants' associations, democracy, civil society

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