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Religion, theology 7 11 9 9 10 9 11
Culture, sports, hobbies 17 29 25 25 25 23 27
Education, child nursing, youth work 10 13 15 15 14 13 18
Women 4 6 5 5 4 4 3
Assistance (e.g., advice, information) 4 7 3 2 2 2 4
Help to neighbors, aged, or disabled 11 9 13 11 13 12 14
Number of activities
None 67 55 59 59 59 61 54
One 23 28 26 25 26 26 28
More than one 10 17 13 11 13 12 14

Source: SCP-Report (1998).

The substantially increased percentage of Dutch citizens as donating
members of some organization during the past ¬fteen years is largely due
to their participation in volunteer work. Recreation attracts the largest
number of volunteers, but education (parental aid to schools), child nurs-
ing, and youth work are also popular. Moreover, since 1977 more time
is spent on work with ideological aims. The data, derived from national
surveys, are summarized in Table 6.1.
Who are the ones spending their free time to volunteer work? Are there
any changes in the number and pro¬le of volunteers during the past ¬fteen
years? About as many people volunteered in 1980 as in 1995, as Table 6.2
shows. About one-third of the Dutch adult population performs some
sort of volunteer work. The participation of the younger age group has
clearly decreased and constitutes the least active category nowadays, while
the participation level of the population aged thirty-¬ve and older has
grown. The impact of education has become less: in 1980 the more highly

Solidarity and Selectivity

table 6.2. Participation in Volunteer Work according to the Time-Allocation
Diary by Sex, Age, Education, and Population Category, 1980 and 1995

Hours by % of Leisure Time
% of Participants Participants by Participants

1980 1995 1980 1995 1980 1995
All 33 32 4.3 4.9 8.4 8.9
Men 36 31 4.6 6.0 8.9 11.2
Women 29 33 4.0 4.0 7.9 8.0
18“34 years 30 22 4.3 4.5 9.1 9.1
35“54 years 37 39 3.8 5.0 7.9 10.4
55“74 years 33 36 5.2 5.3 8.5 8.5
Lower education 28 27 4.0 4.7 7.3 8.8
Middle education 38 34 4.3 5.3 8.3 10.0
Higher education 47 36 4.9 4.4 10.0 9.0
Four big cities 28 26 4.7 5.1 8.7 9.6
Other 100,000+ cities 34 31 4.7 5.2 8.5 10.4
Rest of the Netherlands 33 33 4.2 4.8 8.3 9.3
(n) (2,354) (2,918) (768) (933) (768) (933)

Source: SCP-Report (1998).

educated formed the most active category, but this is no longer the case in
1995. An interesting gender difference shows up: while men™s participa-
tion in volunteer work has dropped in 1995 compared with that in 1980,
the percentage of participating women has increased. Interestingly, in the
same period women™s labor participation has also increased substantially
in the Netherlands: in 1980 not even one-third of the female population
available to the labor market had a paid job, whereas in 1994 this pro-
portion has risen to about half of this population. Although almost half
of these are part-time jobs, the total amount of hours women spend in
paid work has strongly increased in this period: from 7.2 to 14.6 hours
per week. It is therefore striking that women™s participation in volun-
teer work has also increased, particularly the housewives™ participation,
among whom 41% performs some volunteer work in 1995 against 30%

Solidarity, Gifts, and Exclusion

in 1980. Compared with students, people with or without paid jobs, and
retired people, housewives are the most active participants in volunteer
Other research (van Daal 1994) offers some more detailed information
about the pro¬le of the volunteer. The traditional gender differences show
up in the nature of the volunteer work involved, with women spending
more time with the sick, elderly, and disabled, with children, and in ac-
tivities related to school, whereas men spend more of their free time in
sports, trade unions, and political organizations. Religious people are,
in addition to their work for the church, more active in providing assis-
tance, whereas the more highly educated are relatively well represented in
managing functions. What motivates people to spend time in volunteer
work? It does not come as a surprise that civic virtues inspired by a con-
cern with all kinds of social issues, humanitarian involvement, and social
responsibility are often mentioned as motives. But people also report
more instrumental considerations like diversion, seeking social contacts,
and entertainment (Willems 1994).
In short, changes in volunteer work over the years do not so much con-
cern the number of people involved because this remains almost constant;
rather, it is the pro¬le of the volunteer and the nature of volunteering
activities that have undergone changes.

Giving Care

In another report of the Social and Cultural Planning Organisation
(1994a) informal care is conceived as an aspect of the broader concept of
social support, in particular the instrumental component of it. Informal
care comprises practical tasks or concrete services: help with personal or
household care. In this study emotional care is not regarded as a part of
informal care. The recipients are people who are requiring care according
to certain objective criteria that relate to chronic illness or old age. Infor-
mal care is considered as having a relatively enduring character: help that

Solidarity and Selectivity

table 6.3. Care Given to Persons Inside and Outside the Household by
Persons Aged Sixteen and Older

Estimated Number
Percentage of Caregivers in
in Sample the Netherlands
General care inside the household 20 2,400,000
Care to persons requiring help inside
the household 4 500,000
General care outside the household 20 2,400,000
Care to persons requiring help outside
the household 10 1,200,000
Care inside and/or outside the
household 34 4,100,000
Care to persons requiring help inside
and/or outside the household 11 1,300,000

Source: SCP-Report (1994a).

is offered on a regular basis. The care is informal because it is generally
given in people™s homes and given voluntarily “ that is, without ¬nancial
recompense and outside the context of a professional or organizational
setting, like professional assistance or volunteer work. In contrast to pro-
fessional assistance or volunteer work, informal care is often embedded
in a personal relationship between the giver and recipient of the care, as
they are participating in the same social network.
In the Netherlands informal care is provided on a large scale. Table 6.3
gives an overview of the amount of care provided inside and outside one™s
own household, to people who are explicitly requiring care as well as to
those who are not. One in three people “ about 4 million “ are offering
help to others in their direct surroundings that is not necessarily related
to illness. Table 6.3 also includes general care “ that is, caring for relatives
living inside or outside one™s own household; childcare and household
care are excluded. If we look only at care provided to those in need, it
becomes apparent that about 1.3 million Dutch people offer this care,

Solidarity, Gifts, and Exclusion

table 6.4. Participation and Time Spent in General Care Inside and Outside the
Household by Persons Aged Sixteen and Older, 1975“1990

Participation (%) Hours per Week Spent

1975 1980 1985 1990 1975 1980 1985 1990
Care inside the household 30 28 22 20 1.4 2.2 1.4 1.6
Care to family members 12 12 12 10 3.5 2.9 3.4 3.8
Care to nonfamily members 14 14 17 12 3.0 3.1 3.7 4.1
Total care outside the household 22 23 26 20 3.7 3.4 4.0 4.5

Source: SCP-Report (1994a).

which amounts to 11% of the population aged sixteen or older. General
care is provided by 20% of the population, either inside or outside the
household. A quarter of the help provided inside the home is related
to illness or disability (0.5 million persons). Half of the care provided
outside the home relates to illness (1.2 million of people).
As the individualization process is frequently assumed to have had a
negative in¬‚uence on people™s willingness to support one another infor-
mally, it is interesting to compare the developments over time. Are there
any changes in the contribution to informal care over the years? A com-
parison of the years 1975“1990 shows that the supply of the care provided
outside the home has not undergone any substantial changes (Table 6.4).
The proportion of people helping family members remains between 10%
and 12%. Somewhat more people, 12% to 17%, offer care to nonrelatives,
but again there is no clear trend, although the time spent to care for
nonrelatives seems to have increased from 3 to 4 hours weekly. Inside the
home the data (in which household and childcare are excluded) show
some changes, though: fewer people provide care to relatives (other than
their own children) “ from 30% in 1975 to 20% in 1990. A possible ex-
planation might be that households have become smaller between 1975
and 1990. The average amount of time spent caring for relatives, however,
remains the same “ about 1.5 hours weekly.

Solidarity and Selectivity

It is a well-documented fact that the group of informal caregivers
consists mostly of nonemployed middle-aged women. The SCP research
(1994a) shows that twice as many women as men provide informal care,
15% versus 7%. Most caregivers are between thirty-¬ve and sixty-four
years of age. Within the group of informal caregivers 34% of the women
are employed as against 61% of the men, while the corresponding ¬gures
in the general population are 37% and 64%. Most background charac-
teristics like gender, age, education, and employment have only a very
modest in¬‚uence on whether a person provides informal care. Much more
in¬‚uential is the context in which the care takes place “ for instance, the
geographical proximity between caregiver and recipient. However, care-
givers do display a greater societal concern compared with the population
at large: they prove to be more often members of various organizations
and are more frequently religious.
As a consequence of the growing number of elderly people and the
increase of single persons the demand will inevitably grow. Because SCP
prognoses predict that the informal care supply will remain about the
same during the next decades, shortages can be expected in the future.
For our theme of solidarity, however, it is crucial that on the basis of
comparative research over the years no decline in people™s willingness
to provide informal care is yet visible. That the demand for care will be
growing is mainly due to demographic developments in the Netherlands
and not to a failing solidarity with fellow citizens.
An important question that remains to be answered is to whom infor-
mal care is offered. When do people put aside their own concerns and
problems to bene¬t somebody else? From biological and psychological
research on altruism it has become clear that people identify more easily
with their near relatives than with others (Wisp´ 1972; Wilson 1975). Fur-
thermore, identi¬cation with those whose interests are congruent with
ours is more likely than identi¬cation with people unknown to us. Here,
an important but largely neglected characteristic of solidarity comes to
the fore, namely its selective and excluding nature.

Solidarity, Gifts, and Exclusion

Negative Aspects and Consequences of Solidarity

In sociology solidarity has primarily been conceived as an inherently
positive concept. In most theories of solidarity its bene¬cial effects to
the group members are stressed. From the early theories of T¨ nnies and
Durkheim on, it has been assumed that acts of solidarity are directed at
achieving a common good and generate feelings of interconnectedness,
a “conscience collective,” and a shared identity. These theories empha-
size the bene¬ts deriving from a Gemeinschaft of strong communal ties
and shared interests, or from a sound Gesellschaft in which mutually
dependent individuals pro¬t from a functional division of labor that
strengthens their feelings of organically belonging together.
However, solidarity is not predominantly or exclusively the warm and
friendly category we usually assume it to be. Various types of risks may be
involved in group solidarity (Komter 2001). While several authors have
discussed internal risks that threaten solidarity from within the group,
its external risks “ risks for those who are not participating in the sol-
idary group as a consequence of the behavior of the participating group
members “ have received far less attention. Internal risks are, for instance,
free riding, the decay of the overall salience of solidarity as a consequence
of the high costs involved in executing solidarity (Lindenberg 1998), con-
¬‚icting interests internal to the group (Ostrom 1995), or strong emotional
reactions to losses that could result due to the uncooperative behavior of
other group members. In strongly tied networks this may lead to vendetta
and endless feuds (Uzzi 1997).
Other internal risks to group solidarity are pressures toward confor-
mity and egalitarianism. Strong group norms may impede innovation
in organizations. In his discussion on relations of trust, Coleman (1990)
mentions as an example the ¬nancial community in London. In some
¬nancial companies in which trade secrets play an important role there is
a general norm against hiring an employee who has left a sensitive posi-
tion in a competing ¬rm; this group norm may re¬‚ect ingroup solidarity,

Solidarity and Selectivity

but at the same time the ensuing practice reduces innovation because
many good ideas remain unexploited. Although ¬rm groups may suc-
cessfully mobilize resources in order to maintain themselves, they may at
the same time put under restraint the innovating potentialities of individ-
ual group members by enforcing conformity to group norms. In addition
to harboring tendencies toward conformism, the group may adopt be-
havioral codes of egalitarianism by sanctioning individuals who perform
better or attempt to excel over their fellow group members. Dominant
group norms may threaten the individual freedom of the group mem-
bers by isolating them from the surrounding culture. Among Ameri-
can immigrant communities a person who has aspirations to surpass
his or her own group is teasingly called a “wannabe.” In their descrip-
tion of what they call a “hyperghetto” Waquant and Wilson (1989) stress
the same phenomenon: solidarity based on a common adversity dis-
courages individuals from taking advantage of possible chances outside
the ghetto.
What negative external risks may be involved in solidarity? A ¬rst ex-
ample concerns the negative norms and beliefs toward nongroup mem-
bers. While strong ingroup solidarity favors acting in accordance with
the rules of honesty, acceptance of authority, and mutual respect, it may
discourage such attitudes toward outsiders. Strong feelings of ingroup
favoritism may encourage differential moral standards toward in- and
outgroup members: values and behavior of outgroup members are not
measured by the ingroup moral standards but are seen as a deviation from
these and therefore not as worthy of acceptance or toleration. Groups
with strong religious convictions come to mind here (with fundamental-
ism as an extreme consequence), but also rival football clubs or groups
with strongly contrasting cultural backgrounds. Ingroup solidarity may
also result in concrete inimical behavior toward outgroup members. The
stronger the inclusive power of solidarity, the more pronounced will be
the boundaries that separate the ingroup from the outgroup, “us” from

Solidarity, Gifts, and Exclusion

“them,” and the stronger and more concrete the exclusion of outgroup
members will be.
Some attempts have been made to elucidate the relationship between
solidarity and exclusion “ in particular, those originating in the tradi-
tions of economic sociology and anthropology. A representative of the
former school of thought, Roger Waldinger (1995), for instance, stud-
ied the interaction between economic activity, ethnicity, and solidarity
among African American, Caribbean, Korean, and white entrepreneurs in
the construction industry in New York. Embeddedness within informal
networks of one™s own ethnic group engenders social capital promot-
ing people™s capacity to obtain scarce resources. Social capital is taken to
refer to the advantages ensuing from relationships of mutual trust and
cooperation. When somebody has similar ethnic, class, or gender char-
acteristics, he or she is simply perceived as more trustworthy. Mutual
trust promotes cooperative behavior and the exchange of information
and allows people to pro¬t from their networks (Raub 1997; Raub and
Weesie 2000). Waldinger concludes that solidarity has two sides: on the
one hand, embeddedness within informal networks fosters economic
activity within one™s own ethnic community; on the other hand, it is
a powerful means to exclude newcomers: solidarity reinforces informal
resources for group members but impedes membership for outsiders by
refusing them access to these resources. Also Portes and Sensenbrenner
(1993) have recognized this phenomenon; they discovered that the same
social structures facilitate goal-directed activity for some but put restric-
tions on the activities of others. The foregoing examples make clear that
strong ingroup solidarity may be dysfunctional from the perspective of
the wider community: the achievement of the interests of the wider col-
lectivity may be thwarted by the strongly felt ingroup solidarity of its
In many cases a combination of internal and external risks occurs,
as is shown in de Swaan™s (1988) sociological-historical account of the

Solidarity and Selectivity

rise of collective state-based solidarity arrangements in various Euro-
pean countries and the United States. From his analysis of the sponta-
neous associations for mutual ¬nancial assistance in case of unemploy-
ment formed by Dutch citizens in the nineteenth century, it appears that
authentic mutual solidarity was at the same time a strength as well as a
weakness of this form of collective care. Although homogeneous mem-
bership was a source of solidarity, it could also cause new risks “ shortage
of expertise, insuf¬cient inspection, no ¬xed rules and procedures. More-
over, the autonomous collective arrangements resulted in the exclusion
of the less privileged citizens.
Strong ingroup solidarity, then, may not only generate pressures to-
ward conformity and egalitarianism, it may also contain the potential
for de¬ning other groups as enemies and engaging in con¬‚ict with them.
Con¬‚ict with another group may, in turn, serve to increase the ingroup
solidarity of both groups, thereby intensifying the con¬‚ict between them
(Wrong 1994). More generally, as Georg Simmel (1950 [1908]) already
made clear at the beginning of the twentieth century, social ties neces-
sarily imply both bonding and exclusion, namely of those who do not
share the distinctive group characteristics and who are allowed neither to
share the group aims and interests nor to participate in the activities to
achieve these aims and interests. Solidarity and exclusion, then, are two
sides of the same coin.

The Two-Edged Sword of Solidarity

That solidarity and exclusion can go together is also illustrated in the
empirical results of our study about gift giving in the Netherlands (Komter
and Schuyt 1993). In addition to investigating the effects on gift giving of
class, gender, and age (see Chapter 2), we studied speci¬c categories of
respondents in more detail “ retired people, housewives, students, and
employed and unemployed people (among whom several respondents
were living on disability pensions).

Solidarity, Gifts, and Exclusion

table 6.5. Gifts, Given or Received, according to Social Position, % (N)

Employed Unemployed Retired Housewife Student
To From To From To From To From To From
Presents 89 66 72 41 77 53 88 75 96 78
(270) (200) (21) (12) (46) (32) (73) (62) (22) (18)
Money 86 57 55 48 88 22 90 57 61 87
(261) (173) (16) (14) (53) (13) (75) (47) (14) (20)
Food 72 60 52 52 67 47 71 59 70 74
(218) (182) (15) (15) (40) (28) (59) (49) (16) (17)
Stay 66 45 55 45 60 30 63 23 87 83
(200) (136) (16) (13) (36) (18) (52) (19) (20) (19)
Care/help 67 58 55 41 42 40 75 58 78 52

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