First Advisor

Grant M. Farr

Term of Graduation

Spring 2000

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Voluntarism, Lohmann, Roger A., 1942- Commons



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 73 pages)


Volunteerism in the United States has a history dating back to this countries origin. This form of giving originated out of the Great Awakening in the early 17th century. Previous studies on the nature of volunteering have had many different disciplines of research attempting to explain why organizations and individuals spend time in civic service.

In 1992, Roger A. Lohmann wrote The Commons as an attempt to create a bridge between the varying theoretical perspectives on volunteerism. Lohmann suggested that the reason for so many different theoretical approaches is largely due to divisions along disciplinary lines, rather than a practical division. Emphasizing the overlap of conceptual meanings between all of the perspectives, the theory of the commons is framed around nine basic assumptions. The purpose of this quantitative research was to explore five of the assumptions within the theory of the commons; social action, affluence, authenticity, continuity, and rationality, from a sociological perspective to test its explanatory power as an interdisciplinary approach to individual volunteerism.

Secondary data for this research was taken from a 1999 Portland State University study that examined the involvement of corporate employees in volunteering. Social action and affluence were examined as influencing factors on the amount of volunteering. Authenticity, continuity and rationality were explored as instrumental in the decision to volunteer.

The results of this research were suggestive of support for the assumption of continuity, and the findings were cautiously supportive of the assumption of social action. Support was not found for the assumptions of affluence, authenticity and rationality.

Future research is needed to explore the theory of the commons to a more generalized population to further test its explanatory power as an approach to understanding volunteerism. Additionally, this research suggests the need for future studies within individual disciplines to examine the theory of the commons as an interdisciplinary perspective.


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