Politics and Partnerships

Title: Politics and Partnerships: The Role of Voluntary Associations in America’s Political Past and Present

Editors: Elisabeth S. Clemens and Doug Guthrie

Year of Publication: 2010

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press

Website: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo8334058.html

Politics and Partnerships presents an excellent and well-integrated discussion of the historical and contemporary intersections of voluntary associations with the public and for-profit sectors.  In bringing together empirically grounded and methodological diverse contributions from ten scholars, editors Clemens and Guthrie aim “to retrace the major lines of history and to address the practical, analytical, and normative implications of the current movement” (pp. 18-19) dominated by calls for a range of new public-private partnerships.  While acknowledging three principal changes that make the contemporary environment distinct for many nonprofits, the book also demonstrates the importance of the historical roots and dynamic nature of the relationships among nonprofits, government, and market.  Together, the chapters offer a sustained and coherent story about the reciprocal influences that each sector has had on the others as a result of these historical and dynamic interactions.

The book makes important contributions to scholarship by problematizing the notion of “politics and partnerships” and offering a nuanced way to think about the roles that nonprofit organizations, charity, and voluntarism have played in American governance.  Some scholars may be inspired by thinking broadly about how their work may be impacted by reconsidering these historical roles and their contemporary significance, while others may benefit from the innovative work demonstrated in many of the chapters.  Politics and Partnerships should be of particular interest to researchers who study nonprofits and philanthropy, as well as political scientists and sociologists who study political mobilization, social movements, or social service provision.  Importantly, the book also provides practitioners involved in shaping or implementing policies that aim to reorganize relationships among the sectors with a fresh way to think about how they approach their work.

2012 ARNOVA Book Award Committee

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