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Iglič, H. (2010). Voluntary Associations and Tolerance: An Ambiguous Relationship. American Behavioral Scientist 53 (5), 717-736.

In the debate on social capital, it is usually assumed that membership in voluntary associations is highly beneficial for the formation of civic values among the association’s affiliates. Despite these theoretical expectations, comparative studies have so far found only a weak statistical relationship between associational involvement and tolerance in Western democracies and a nonsignificant or even negative relationship in the case of Eastern and Central European countries. In this article, the author further investigates the negative relationship between associational involvement and attitudes of social and political tolerance, the “dark side” of social capital. The author shows that when members of voluntary associations build particularized trust rather than generalized trust, this decreases their already low levels of social tolerance. Such situations are especially common in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. Associational involvement also has negative effects on political tolerance. Associations are social contexts within which processes of interpersonal influence and political mobilization take place. This results in the reinforcement of civic as well as uncivic orientations of associational members.


Iglič, Hajdeja

Hajdeja Iglič, PhD, is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana.

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