Although private charity and voluntarism are often understood as alternatives to state programs, in the United States government often acts through these formally private channels. In the face of national crisis and war, popular mobilization has been organized through membership in private, voluntary organizations. The practices of charity and voluntary donation have generated substantial financial and material support for state activities from foreign wars to the relief of domestic disasters. This pervasive entanglement of public agencies and voluntary practices is the central puzzle for my current book project, Civic Nation: Voluntarism and the Governing of the United States.
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