Nonprofits Daring to Be Different as Moral Dark Energy Improving the World: A Review of Deviant Voluntary Associations

In: Nonprofits Daring to Be Different as Moral Dark Energy Improving the World
  • 1 Research and Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA

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Misconduct and more serious deviance in nonprofits have long been inadequately studied in the interdisciplinary field and emergent academic discipline of nonprofit sector studies—voluntaristics (Smith 2016a). This article suggests a new way to look at such nonprofit dark side phenomena, focusing centrally here on fundamentally deviant nonprofit groups (DNG s)—nonprofits with goals or the means to achieve them that violate current moral norms in their larger society to some significant extent, usually as deviant voluntary associations (DVA s), not nonprofit agencies with paid staff.

A threefold typology of intensity of collective nonprofit deviance is presented, ranging from the most extreme, noxious DVA s, down to the mildest, eccentric DVA s. In the middle are dissenting DVA s, which often seem noxious initially, but in the longer term turn out to be historic advocates for ethical evolution and sociocultural progress, as integral to the ongoing human rights revolution worldwide. Dissenting DVA s are distinguished by having moral authority based on some higher—often religious or spiritual—value system. Two examples of each of the three DVA intensity types are reviewed, deriving takeaway lessons for policy and practice from each. In Part 5, the author discusses moral dissenting DVA s as the central nonprofits involved in the global human rights revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries (Iriye, Goedde, & Hitchcock, 2012).


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