draft but may be quoted of a paper for the International Studies Association, Warren Room, Marriott Hotel, Washington DC, 3:30 pm, Saturday, 20 February 1999. Panel: "Bowling Together: Volunteerism and the World Community"

Putnam, Fukuyama,

De Tocqueville,

and Volunteerism in the International Community

Paul Rich

University of the Americas - Puebla

Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Guillermo De Los Reyes

University of Pennsylvania

Univeristy of the Americas - Puebla


Precis: Discussion of volunteerism viz democratization almost always leaves out secret ritualistic societies such as the Freemasons, arguably the original NGOs or non-governmental organizations, and ignores the literature and research about such societies. Reference by Robert Putnam of "Bowling Alone" fame to the decline of fraternal orders fails to take into account their variety: their histories in some cases actually challenge his thesis. As scholars in international studies become increasingly interest in social capital, trust, and intermediary institutions, the issues presented by the Masonic order and like institutions become increasingly relevant.

Civil society1 and its organizations are attracting renewed and increased attention in international studies, as is social capital and political culture,2 -- a reminder of Geertz´s phrase that "the politics of a country reflect the sense of culture".3 All of the panelists this afternoon are interested in voluntary organizations in the international setting and indeed in a particular variety of NGO or non-governmental organization -- the secret ritualistic society.

Our paper will serve as an introduction to the two papers on worldwide Masonry and the global nature of the Orange Order to be presented by Antonio Lara (Freemasonry as an International Movement) and Moises Ramirez (The Orange Order as an Evolving International Movement). We derive some satisfaction from the fact that they are contributions to an area of research that is somewhat neglected and is certainly misunderstood.

NGOs are commonly regarded as open affairs, as groups like trades unions or humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross. The Orange Order, Freemasonry, Knights of Columbus, Rosicrucians and Opus Dei do not come to mind immediately when this subject of intermediary groups discussed. Nevertheless, if one was looking for an NGO in the eighteenth century, it would be the Orange or the Masons and indeed would have to be. These secret ritualistic lodges are, ironically, the original NGOs. And they are the original international NGOs.

Volunteerism and associationalism is a hot topic in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, partly because political scientists are interested in seeing how all the new states can end up firmly in the democratic camp and are looking for an elixir. Unquestionably the search for an understanding of what creates a viable political culture that will support democracy has taken on enormous importance in the aftermath of the Cold War, and fortuitously today, in our opinion, this has meant that there is a "renaissance"4 in political culture scholarship -- or a "return", as Gabriel Almond puts it.5

Studies6 suggest that this resurgent interest in a political culture approach to democratization comes from not one but various quarters7 and we realize that we are hardly the only ones or first ones to point out how inevitably this has led to more concern about voluntary organizations. Seymour Martin Lipset remarked in Union Democracy (1956) that voluntary groups make much more difficult the triumph of such movements as Communism and Fascism and help mobilize diversity in the political arena. They are a training ground for politics, a source of new ideas, and a significant method of communication.8

But at the same time that Lipset´s remarks have come back into currency, a major concern is being expressed that all is not well in the relationship between civil society and democracy in what should be the outstanding exemplar, the United States. An alarm has been sounded by Professor Robert Putnam of Harvard that the republic is in danger from a decline in volunteerism as the number of "couch potatoes" grows and watching television replaces civil participation, epitomized by him in the alleged move from group to solitary bowling. The suggestion even has been made that those who bowl alone are more illness prone than those who are on a team: a California study asserts "...people with few social ties were two to three times more likely to die of all causes than those with more extensive contacts," Apparently confirmed by a half dozen surveys, this has "ominous implications if the political scientist Robert Putnam is right that social capital is declining in America."9

Putting Together

Are we really in a period of decline as far as volunteerism is concerned? Lipset cautioned in his book Agrarian Socialism (1950) that individual organizations rise and fall, and that so far no complex society has discovered the secret of equilibrium when it comes to particular ones maintaining their stability and social gains.10 We think Putnam has missed this point. He has mistaken natural Darwinian selection for ecological disaster. The phenomenal growth of youth soccer and of miniature golf suggests that some people who were bowling together are now putting or coaching.

While Professor Putnam has made a valuable contribution by sparking debate over whether volunteerism has ebbed, just the spirited social exchanges of the Internet and the enormous non-paid activity in constructing World Wide Web archives shows the other side of the coin to which we refer.11 All manner of discussion, lobby, and support groups have sprung up via the Net.12 Putnam relies on surveys which show a decline in conventional membership in organizations that may have declined because of changes in interest and constituency rather than a lack of public spirit.13 The Grange, for example, could not sustain growth as the farming population decreased. The United Commercial Travelers still maintains a lodge system for lonely salesmen, but air transportation makes it possible to be home for the weekend, and the organization has suffered from that.

Research by Brent Morris shows that some of the organizations that Putnam cites as evidence of the recent decline in volunteerism actually began their decline long ago. The Odd Fellows, for example, began declining in 1920, and the decline from 1920 to 1935 exceeded all its growth from 1990 to 1920. In 1920 the Odd Fellows had 1, 736,00 members. In 1940 they had 666,000 members. D. Morris shows similar, if now obscure organizations such as the Patriarchs Militant, Rebekah, and Knights of Pythias also peaked around 1920 and then began to decline.14

The work Dr. Morris has done is a good example of how useful it will be if the research done into rather private, if not totally secretive, societies like the Masons is incorporated into discussions about intermediate organizations and volunteerism. (We recognize the Masonry sometimes resents being called a secret society, claiming that it is very visible by virtue of its buildings and charities.) Clearly Putnam cannot go back to 1920 in trying to show a decline in the voluntary spirit. His thesis needs a more recent date. He cannot, for example, use the lack of member participation in the National Geographical Society because that would put him back in the 1890s.

Putnam´s claims about those voluntary groups that have grown substantially in recent years such as the Sierra Club and American Association of Retired Persons, -- that they mean little more to their members than do magazine subscriptions, are somewhat contradicted by the activities of those groups he singles out. The AARP for example has more than 4000 local chapters, many of them being involved in blood drives, hospital visitation and other civic activities.

The fact is that both pessimism and optimism about the health of American civil society have been around for a long time prior to the Bowling Alone controversy. In 1991 when Robert Fowler tackled the issue of community in America, he acknowledged that, "One interpretation suggests that although community had had its moment in American history, the unfolding of our story has sapped its possibilities." But he went on to criticize those who "...describe a crisis or rather many crises and agree that community is not a hegemonic idea in America culture and, sometimes, that it has never been."15 Alex Inkeles in a 1979 essay for a volume edited by Lipset, The Third Century: America as a Post-Industrial Society, found a continuing commitment in American history to community participation and a consistently high degree of interpersonal trust compared to other countries. About the current revived interest in volunteerism and civil society he comments, "Social science seems more devoted to the recycling of old ideas rather than to the invention of new ones."16

A higher divorce rate, decrease in family size, increased percentage of women in the labor force, and the geographic mobility of Americans have been blamed for a supposed decline in associational life. On the other hand, a greater number of single people and less family commitments might argue for a rising need among the lonely for joining groups,17 chapters of Parents Without Partners being an example. Evidence about the current condition of civil society cuts two ways. For example, there are far more women´s rights groups today than ever before, and the number of investors´clubs and associations has constantly increased as the stock market has boomed.

Mostly Bunk?

So the situation is not easily interpreted. Less Americans are joining the Odd Fellows, but more every day are involved in college alumni groups -- if only because more are going to college. Putnam could argue that new movements are more like the National Geographic Society (itself a nineteenth-century foundation) and that the memberships of many organizations are uninvolved, but the level of involvement of members in organizations in the past surely varied as well. Accusing him of "intellectual and journalistic superficiality", Robert J. Samuelson found that even bowling was simply showing a more relaxed style rather than demonstrating a dearth of community. Anyway, argued Samuelson, softball leagues now had more than 40 million participants, in contrast with only 27 million in 1972. Conceding that unions had slumped, he pointed out that there had been an increase participation in literary and art groups and professional groups, suggesting perhaps a change in the population rather than a decline in spirit.. American associational life today he insists is less along racial, sexual and ethnic lines and thus has improved in quality. After all, he ripostes, "The Ku Klux Klan didn´t promote trust." "Mostly bunk" is his view of the Bowling Alone alarm. "Americans haven´t become recluses," he commented.18

Another critic of Putnam, Diana Eck, discusses how the American penchant for volunteerism has influenced traditional religious groups that are relatively new to the country. "There are Hindu groups that adopt a highway and an organization called Sikhs Serving America that tries to help street people. There has been a proliferation of "voluntary associations based on democratic, and not necessarily Christian, principles" which counteracts the notion that people are bowling alone.19

When it comes to bowling, the Bowl for Kids´ Sake organization aiding the Big Brother and Big Sister mentoring programs has produced so far more than $125 million, and from ground zero in 1981 now involves more than two million bowlers a year. (Of course the argument could be made that BKS members don´t share pizzas and beers are readily as members of company teams, but the proof of that would seem a challenge.) The Big Brother and Big Sister organizations have been joined in a new mentoring movement by other new groups such as Concerned Black Men, One Hundred Black Men, Foster Grandparents, and Friends of the Children.

A case then can be made that for every sewing circle and fraternal lodge that has declined, another sort of volunteerism springs up. An optimist, Professor Ann Boyles, writes, "It is perhaps the most significant social phenomenon of our time: the sudden efflorescence of countless movements and organizations of social change at local, regional, and international levels." She adds, "This blossoming of civil society, as represented by non-governmental organizations, community-based groups, academic institutions, and others, is significantly reshaping the international agenda."20

While Putnam has made a valuable contribution by sparking debate over whether volunteerism has ebbed, just the spirited social exchanges of the Internet and the enormous non-paid activity in constructing World Wide Web archives shows another side. All manner of discussion, lobby and support groups have sprung up via the Net. Putnam relies on surveys which show a decline in conventional membership in organizations that may have declined because of changes in interest and constituency rather than a lack of public spirit. The Grange, for example, could not sustain growth as the farming population decreased.



We wish to emphasize that the proposition that understanding democracy requires understanding civil society, social capital and political culture, is not a new idea.21 Steven Brint claims that Aristotle was the first to emphasize the ties between democracy and political culture,22 and to assert that political culture was the key to holding power in society.23 However, the present high interest in how a healthy political culture is maintained24 has become almost synonymous with an interest in the conditions fostering democracy.25 Larry Diamond remarks, "But increasingly, scholars are recognizing the symbiotic nature of the relationship between state and civil society, in the process of democratic consolidation and more generally. By enhancing the accountability, responsiveness, inclusiveness, and hence legitimacy of the regime, a vigorous, pluralistic civil society strengthens a democratic state and moves it toward consolidation."26

In the international case, as the other two papers this afternoon will show, while it is generally agreed that volunteerism and associationalism are pivotal to nurturing and sustaining democracy, the relationship in countries which are in transition from nondemocratic regimes requires more thought than it has received.27 Volunteerism is not democracy´s panacea. Nor are all organizations axiomatically democratic helpmates. After all, Opus Dei is an Non-Governmental Organization and the Freemasons are also an NGO. Are such secretive and ritualistic movements the way to develop democratic habits?

As Lipset pointed out in Elites in Latin America, in that region high-status social clubs have sustained the governing class, and major agricultural organizations are the preserve of the elite.28 No, voluntary organizations per se are not a helpmate of democracy, something sometimes forgotten. Furthermore, economic problems can be so dire that they seem on initial examination to dominate the crisis and to require governmental rather than private solutions.

But still, if economics and government helped to create the problems of some nation states now trying to democratize, it is not as clear that economics and government alone are going to solve the problem. Despite reservations, one hopes for much from the nongovernmental sector. For example, in the case of Mexico29 the hopeful changes as far as democracy is concerned are primarily outside the formal government structure.30 In fact, Mexican politics cannot be understood by studying government structure as so much of the decision making takes place in the informal spheres.31 On the other hand, despite efforts to blame the government, it is civil society which in Mexico as in many other countries which has been much of the problem, long flavored by favoritism, graft, and corruption.

What we would urge is putting discussion of intermediate organizations, including the secret and ritualistic organizations, forcefully into current debate about democratization and seeing this influence as just as important for study as economic issues. Ronald Inglehart warned: "There is no question that economic factors are politically important, but they are only part of the story. I argue that different societies are characterized to very different degrees by specific syndromes of political culture attitudes; that these cultural differences are relatively enduring, but not immutable; and that they have major political consequences, being closely linked to the viability of democratic institutions."32 So they do, with particular relevance to emerging democracies such as that of Mexico -- and thus to all of us in international studies.33


1. "As a first approximation, civil society may be defined as all social interests not encompassed by the state or the economy. In it political aspects it also excludes private life, although recent attacks by feminists and others n the public/private distinction make this boundary less clear. ..Prominent examples of civil society in action would include the early bourgeois public sphere discussed by Habermas, the insurgent ´free spaces´in U.S. political history constituted by women, blacks, workers, farmers, and others, the democratic opposition in Eastern Europe prior to 1989, and, in the West, feminist, antinuclear, peace, environmental, and urban new social movements...Civil society is a heterogeneous place, home to the Michigan Militia as well as the movements I have mentioned." John Dryze, "Political Inclusion and the Dynamics of Democratization," American Political Science Review, 90 (1): 481 (September 1996).

2 "In an article of 1956, Gabriel Almond, building upon conceptions of culture created by such sociologists and anthropologists as Clyde Kluckholm, Ralph Linton, and Talcott Parsons, defined a specifically political area of culture that, in collaboration with Sidney Verba, he proceeded to study empirically in five democracies. The findings were published in 1963 in The Civic Culture (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963). A few years earlier, working independently of Almond, Samuel Beer and Adam Ulam presented a somewhat different definition of the concept in a comparative government text of 1958 (Patterns of Government, New York: Random House, 1958)." William T. Bluhm, Ideologies and Attitudes: Modern Political Culture (Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1974) p. xii.

3 Clifford Geertz, La Interpretación de las Culturas ( Barcelona, Spain: España, Editorial Gedisa, 1992), p.262.

4 See Ronald Inglehart, "The Renaissance of Political Culture" in American Political Science Review, 82 (December 1988).

5"To speak of a return to political culture implies that there was an earlier time when political culture studies were here at hand and prospering, that this was followed by a time in which the approach declined, and these studies are once again prospering." Gabriel Almond, "Forward: The Return of Political Culture", in Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries, ed.Larry Diamond (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1993), p. ix.

6. E.g. and variously, Larry Diamond ed., Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries (Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1993. Marshall G.S.Hodgson, Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam and World History, (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993).. Robert A. Packenham, The Dependency Movement: Scholarship and Politics in Development Studies, Harvard University Press, Cambridge and London, 1992. Thomas Sowell, Race and Culture: A World View, Basic Books, New York, 1994

7. See Guy Sorman, The New Wealth of Nations (Stanford CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1990), p. 198.

8. Seymour Martin Lipset, Union Democracy (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1956), pp. 16, 82-86.

9 Ichiro Kawachi, Bruce P. Kennedy, and Kimberly Lochner, "Long Live Community: Social Capital as Public Health,", The American Prospect, 35: 56-59 (November-December 1997).

10. Seymour Martin Lipset, Agrarian Socialism: The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1950), pp. 82, 332.

11. Of course, it will be argued that computers are a solitary pursuit, but chat groups on the Internet are participatory and the members arrange face-to-face meetings. The Internet is really a great socializer.

12. See Janet Moursund, "Social Support on the Internet", in Mapping Cyberspace: Social Research on the Electronic Frontier, ed. Joseph E. Behar (NewYork , NY: Dowling College Press, 1997), pp. 53-78.

13. Rich recalls an elderly lady of his acquaintance who was a stalwart member of the Widows of World War I and constantly bemoaning an inability to find new recruits.

14. S.Brent Morris, A Radical in the East (Ames, IA; Iowa Research Lodge No.2, 1993), passim.

15. Robert Booth Fowler, The Dance with Community: The Contemporary Debate in American Thought, (Lawrence, KA: University Press of Kansas, 1991), pp. 35-37.

16. Alex Inkeles, "Continuity and Change in the American National Character,", in The Third Century: America as a Post-Industrial Society, ed. Seymour Martin Lipset (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1979), pp.401-403. Alex Inkeles to Paul Rich, 16 July 1997.

17. Robert D. Putnam, "Bowling Alone: America´s Declining Social Capital", at http://muse.jhu.edu/demo/journal_of_democracy//v006/putnam.html and at David LaJeunesse, "Why is U.S. Social Capital Eroding?", 5 June 1997 at http://www.pacificu.edu/archives/grovenet/0416.html (based on "Issues of Democracy", USIA Electronic Journals, Vol. 1, No. 8, July 1979).

18. Robert J. Samuelson, "Why It Doesn´t Matter If You Bowl Alone", Washington Post Writers Group, Mexico City News, 12 April 1996,


19. Diana Eck, comments at a symposium "The Democratic Soul" reported in Religion and Values in Public Life, The Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, 6:1, Fall 1997, 3.

20. Ann Boyles, "The Rise of Civil Society", One Country , 2 (January-March 1997).

21. Sidney Verba, "Comparative Political Culture" in Political Culture and Political Development, " ed. Lucian W. Pye and Sidney Verba (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965,) p.514.

22 Steven Brint, "Sociological Analysis of Political Culture: An Introduction and Assessment", in Research on Democracy and Society Vol. 2, ed. Frederick D. Weil (Greenwich, CT: Jai Press, 1994), p.3.

23. Ibid.

24. See Larry Diamond, "Economic Development and Democracy Reconsidered" in Reexamining Democracy: Essays in Honor of Seymour Martin Lipset. ed. Garry Marks and Larry Diamond (Sage Publications, Newbury Park CA, 1992), pp. 116-120. (California), 1992, 116-119.

25. "But the development of a stable and effective democratic government depends upon more than the structures of government and politics: it depends upon the orientations that people have to the political process - upon the political culture. Unless the political culture is able to support a democratic system, the chances for the success of that system are slim." Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963), p.498.

26. Larry Diamond, "Consolidating Democracy in the Americas", The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 550: 34 (March 1997).

27. Dennis Kavanah, Political Culture (New York NY: Macmillan, 1972), o.11

28. Seymour Martin Lipset, "Values, Education, and Entrepreneurship,", in Elites in Latin America, ed. Seymour Martin Lipset and Aldo Solari, (London, England: Oxford University Press, 1967), p.9.

29. Lucy Conger, "Mexico: Zapatista Thunder", Current History, 93 (581): 115 (March 1994).

30. Jorge Alonso ed., "Introducción", in Cultura Política y Educación Cívica, (Mexico City, Mexico: Grupo Editorial Miguel Angel Porrua, UNAM, 1993), pp.7-10.

31. Ibid. Also see Peter L. Berger, Para una teoría sociológica de la religión, (Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Kairós, 1971).

32. Ronald Inglehart, "The Renaissance of Political Culture" in American Political Science Review, Vol. 82, No. 4, December 1988, 1203.

33. "...until recently rather little attention has been directed to how political culture affects the possibilities for democracy in the less developed world and the newly transforming polities of the former communist bloc." Larry Diamond, "Introduction:Political Culture and Democracy", in Larry Diamond ed., Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder & London, 1993, 15. See also, Jacqueline Peschard (Coordinadora), Cultura Política, Congreso Nacional de Ciencia Política. Colegio Nacional de Ciencias Políticas y Administración Pública, A.C., 1996.