Frideres on free riders

Civic Participation, Awareness, Knowledge and Skills by James S. Frideres.

Current research suggests that individuals become involved in civic activities depending on the benefits and costs of participation. Research further stipulates that, to be effective as incentives, benefits are “selective” or “private” in that they specifically reward members for their individual contributions and are only obtainable by those who actually participate. If you can’t, or can get the rewards elsewhere, or by letting others do it, it is likely that individuals will not participate and engage in “free rider” behaviour. Selective incentives are not only material, e.g., money, but can also be nonmaterial (solidarity), e.g., friendship, personal satisfaction. Research also suggests that purposive benefits, which are derived from suprapersonal goals of the organization, include such activities as bettering the community, doing one’s civic duty, and fulfilling a sense of responsibility.10

The most active participants in voluntary organizations, e.g., leaders, are primarily motivated by purposive benefits such as working toward the improvement of the neighborhood or community. Others have suggested that the enjoyment of leadership and organizing as well as ego gratification are important motivators. However, solidarity benefits are also important for these individuals. Material motives were found to play a relatively minimal role as motivator for the most active participants. In general, purposive motives are important initiating participation while solidarity, purposive and material motives are important for sustaining participation. Costs are negatively associated with any form of involvement. (See Figure 2)

Within the “cost-reward” model, three factors have been identified as influencing an individuals participation in voluntary organizations: perception of the environment, ones social relations, and one’s perceived control and empowerment within the community.

We must remember that nominal civic participation is the membership of a state, while citizenship means generalized rights.

Globalization presents people with an unending stream of products, ideas, values which threaten to destabilize links between the citizen and the state, unless they are constrained by the positive identification with the polity that an enriched practices of citizenship can generate (Kaplan, 1993). Our argument is that “community as a place” is disappearing, and taking its place is “community as space”. As a result, Canadians must rethink the concept of “community” and take steps by which civic involvement acknowledges this new conceptualization of “community”.

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