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Civil society, social capital and the Twelve Step group
journal contributionposted on 1998-04-01, 00:00 authored by Grazyna Zajdow
This article examines the nature of community and family by using the concept of civil society through a Twelve Step group called Al-Anon. Al-Anon is related to Alcoholics Anonymous and is a support group for families of alcoholics. The concept of civil society is addressed by looking at its development in political philosophy and sociology. The work of Putnam, in particular, is used to understand how civil society and the associations which make it up develop social capital [Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton University Press (1993); Journal of Democracy, 6(1), 65-78 (1995); The Responsive Community, 5(2), 18-33 (1995)]. Social capital is understood to be norms and values such as trust and reciprocity that enable sociability or social connectedness. Community, then, embodies these norms of trust and reciprocity through their development in Al-Anon. Al-Anon is studied as an example of an association in civil society. The data come from an ethnographic study in Australia and five European countries as well as in-depth interviews with women members in Australia. The article reviews the similarities and differences between the various countries as well as the form that social capital takes for individual members.