The effect of social inequality on civil society access and participation in communities in rural Iowa

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2008-01-01
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Raymond, Victor
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William F. Woodman
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Civil society theory tends to posit that civil society is normatively positive; in its ideal form, civil society is functional in character. Additionally, civil society is assumed to have ameliorative effects on inequality and stratification, however, much of the existing civil society literature does not address the converse relationship of how social inequality might affect civil society. It was hypothesized that social inequality related to class, race, gender, and age would lead to differences in attitudes towards and structural conditions related to access to and inclusion in civil society, as well as to actual participation in civil society on the part of residents. These hypotheses were tested using cross-tabulation comparisons of data taken from a 2004 survey of residents in 99 Iowa communities, and then examined further using Lazarsfeld's elaboration model, utilizing additional test variables. Findings indicated that social class, race, and to a lesser extent, age, continue to play a significant role in actual access to and inclusion in civil society, as well as personal participation in civil society. Contrary to theoretical expectations, gender did not apparently play a significant role in civil society activity in this study. Little support was indicated for a defining role of attitudinal measures of civil society inclusion, access, and participation.

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Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2008