Determinants of Individual Prosociality and of Collective Social Solidarity- Cohesion

A Literature Review


The foundations of volunteering, charitable giving, voluntary associations, voluntary agencies, and other aspects of the Voluntary Nonprofit Sector (VNPS) collectively and of individual voluntary action lie in various aspects of human nature and societies. These foundations may be referred to variously as altruism, morality, ethics, virtue, kindness, generosity, cooperation, social solidarity, and prosociality (eusociality). These foundations of the VNPS, and specifically of social solidarity and prosociality, are the subjects of this literature review article/book. The central goal is providing a comprehensive and interdisciplinary theoretical framework for understanding, explaining, and predicting such phenomena, based on two versions of the author’s S-Theory:

(1) Individual-System-Level General S-Theory of Human Behavior, as presented briefly here and in greater detail elsewhere (Smith, 2015, 2020a, 2020b; Smith & van Puyvelde, 2016);
(2) Social-System-Level General S-Theory of Collective Prosociality-Social Solidarity, as partially sketched here for the first time in print.

Social-System-Level General S-Theory of collective Prosociality-Social Solidarity argues that collective social solidarity can be better explained with a broader than usual range of factors as major causal influences, beyond normative systems. Individual prosociality behavior can be best explained and understood using the author’s Individual-System-Level General S-Theory of Human Behavior.
Prosociality includes (a) instrumental (task-oriented) helping behavior, such as formal and informal volunteering or charitable giving for non-household/non-immediate family persons and also informal care of residential household/immediate family persons, plus (b) expressive prosociality or sociability that involves positive interpersonal relations with one or more other persons, both in the residential household/immediate family or outside of it, based on feelings of attachment, fellowship, friendship, affection, and/or love.
Prosociality and social solidarity are clearly human universals, as Brown (1991) concludes from anthropological studies on hundreds of mostly preliterate societies on all continents. Such individual human prosociality activities often have positive short- and long-term consequences for the people who do them.

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Biographical Note

David Horton Smith (PhD Harvard University, 1965) is Research and Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Boston College, USA. Founder (1971) of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action/ARNOVA ( and its SSCI journal, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ), he is founding editor of this journal.

Table of contents

Determinants of Individual Prosociality and of Collective Social Solidarity-Cohesion: A Literature Review
David Horton Smith, PhD
 Editor’s Introduction: “Individual Prosociality and Collective Social Solidarity as Key Terms in Voluntaristics in Their Larger Terminological Context”
 1 On Human Prosociality: Being Hyper-Social as Distinctive of the Human Species
 2 Informal Prosociality Activities as One Basis for Social Solidarity
 3 Applying Individual-System-Level General S-Theory to Explaining Prosociality
 4 Formal Volunteering and Formal Pro-Sociality Activities
 5 Volunteering as Part of Broader Nonprofit Sector Development
 6 Developing a Distinctive Definition of Social Solidarity-Cohesion
 7 Applying Social-System-Level General S-Theory to Explaining Social Solidarity
 8 Considering Social Solidarity at Different Analytical System Levels with S-Theory
 9 S-Theory Analysis of Fostering, Maintaining, and Changing Social Solidarity
 10 Disorder, Antisocial Behavior, Selfish Egoism, Conflict, Crime, and Other Negative Alternatives to Social Solidarity and Prosociality
 11 Conclusion
 Author Biography


Anyone interested in the field of Voluntaristics worldwide, academics and researchers in anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, and psychology, and those interested in Area studies, the social professions, and history.

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