"Private Action and the Public Good" by Walter W.              Powell

Private Action and the Public Good Walter W. Powell, Elisabeth S. Clemens

Publication date:
30 Mar 1998
Yale University Press
336 pages: 279 x 216mm
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Governments around the world are turning over more of their services to private or charitable organizations, as politicians and pundits celebrate participation in civic activities. But can nonprofits provide more and higher-quality services than governments or for-profit businesses? Will nonprofits really increase social connectedness and civic engagement? This book, a sequel to Walter W. Powell’s widely acclaimed The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook, brings together an original collection of writings that explores the nature of the "public good" and how private nonprofit organizations relate to it.

The contributors to this book—eminent sociologists, political scientists, management scholars, historians, and economists—examine the nonprofit sector through a variety of theoretical and methodological lenses. They consider the tensions between the provision of public goods and the interests of members and donors in nonprofit organizations. They contrast religious and secular nonprofits, as well as private and nonprofit provision of child care, mental health services, and health care. And they explore the growing role of nonprofits in the United States, France, Germany, and Eastern Europe, the contribution of nonprofits to economic development, and the forms and strategies of private action.

Walter W. Powell is professor of sociology at the University of Arizona. Elisabeth S. Clemens is associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona.

"Powell and Clemens have compiled a marvelous addition to the research literature on the nonprofit sector, its governance characteristics and its capacities to contribute to the good of society. The contributing authors are an exciting mix of young scholars with refreshing new perspectives and respected sages whose works constitute much of the foundation of contemporary nonprofit scholarship. The volume extends the boundaries of our understanding in several important directions including philanthropy, public service delivery, government-nonprofit relations, the international nonprofit sector, and the internal workings of nonprofit organizations."?Dennis Young, Case Western Reserve University

"The nonprofit sector is a vital part of civil society. Powell and Clemens have produced the best single collection of essays that explicitly explores the linkages between the public good, civil society, and the nonprofit sector. It will help shape the debate for many years."?Mayer N. Zald, University of Michigan

"This volume addresses an extremely important topic from an academic standpoint and from a public policy perspective?how nonprofits might contribute to the collective good, why they often fail, and some of the consequences for the larger society of their pursuit of the public good."?Joseph Galaskiewicz, University of Minnesota

"The essays in this superb collection on their relationship of not-for-profit activity to the creation of public goods are selected from among those given at a series of conferences on philanthropic research at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy in Indianapolis. . . . Powell and Clemens have done an excellent job in selecting and organizing the essays. The volume is important because it gathers some of the best recent thinking on a subject of emerging significance in scholarship and public policy?the role of private philanthropy and nonprofit organizations in the strengthening of civil society."?Choice

"Libraries serving areas with a lively nonprofit sector should consider this collection . . . Although these essays are demanding, they position concerns of particular nonprofits within the context of the sector?s larger trends."?Mary Carroll, Booklist

"Powell and Clemens have assembled an impressive collection of scholars, and there is a lot of first?rate work here. For those who study nonprofits, organizational theory, or the like, this collection is, like its predecessor, indispensable."?Christopher Beem, Social Forces