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Special Interest Society

How Membership-based Organizations Shape America

James R. Hudson - Assisted by Patricia A. Hudson

Special Interest Society:How Membership-based Organizations Shape America is that no modern democratic society can function without them. With a focus on how they emerge and the steps they take to advance their mutual interests, the book also provides a sober account of how MBOs can be slow to accept important and necessary changes. It also reveals the less flattering role they have played in denying access or limiting acceptance to eligible individuals based on their race, gender, ethnicity, and more.

In Special Interest Society, James R. Hudson analyzes over 400 published histories of MBOs to report on their emergence, growth, and development. Many provide essential services within our society of which we are unaware that we have come to rely upon. Employing several sociological theories, he explains why their actions have enabled these organizations to thrive in a democratic society as well as affect significant social change. Throughout, he demonstrates how open and democratic societies provide a fertile ground for their continued emergence. He explains why their numbers have increased over the last two hundred years as occupations and personal interests have become more specialized and complex. Written for students and scholars working in sociology, public policy, business, community development, and nonprofit management, as well as association professionals and their staff, this book provides an unparalleled insight into the history, purpose, and challenges of associations in America.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 266Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-7798-3 • Hardback • September 2013 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-0-7391-8538-4 • Paperback • September 2015 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-0-7391-7799-0 • eBook • September 2013 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
James R. Hudson, PhD, is professor emeritus at Penn State University and currently serves as the research director for the Melos Institute

Patricia A. Hudson, MPsSc is a community psychologist and president of the Melos Institute.
Chapter One: A Voice for Every Interest: A primer on Associations in America
Chapter Two: A Brief Perspective of the Contributions Made by MBOs
Chapter Three: Emergence
Chapter Four: Building and Shaping the Organization
Chapter Five: Building the Member Community
Chapter Six: I Hear You Knocking…But You Can’t Come In
Chapter Seven: The Search for Legitimacy
Chapter Eight: Promote
Chapter Nine: Protect
Chapter Ten: Membership-Based Organizations as Change Agents
Chapter Eleven: The Future Is Certain
Appendix: Membership-Based Organizations Included in the Research
About the Authors
As a longtime fan and former colleague of Amos Hawley, I was delighted to see that James R. Hudson has used Hawley's keen insights about the nature of corporate groups in modern society to examine membership-based organizations in the United States. The book is also packed with interesting observations about the emergence and influence of membership-based organizations in the late 20th century.
Howard Aldrich, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Special Interest Society:How Membership-based Organizations Shape America reveals that Jim Hudson has taken a neglected topic, essentially organizations of like-minded people, and amassed a fascinating compendium of knowledge about them. He shows that there is a vast range of interests that bring them together, from fruit growers to antique car collectors, and that their organizations have wonderfully interesting, occasionally quirky, stories. Despite the differences in the substantive interests of their members, Hudson finds regular patterns in how they build vibrant, long-lasting, effective organizations. Looking around the world in recent decades, we can see how elusive civil society is, how difficult it is to build and maintain. Following Alexis de Tocqueville, Hudson shows that membership-based organizations are distinctively American and that they support our traditions and structures in many ways. Special Interest Society demonstrates that membership-based organizations are essential building blocks to American democracy itself.
Harvey M. Choldin, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This book is best classified as being part of historical sociology, as it feels dated. Hudson (emer., Penn State) himself admits in the preface that there might be controversy about using the human ecology framework for his analysis. But perhaps it is timely in light of the resurgence (in some circles) of acknowledging the validity of sociobiology. By nature, humans are social creatures, no less so when creating formal social organizations, which Hudson, with assistance from his wife, Patricia, note with analysis of an extensive list of professional organizations. In some cases, the purpose of membership organizations included in this list is amusing—e.g., the Prune Bargaining Association. Interest in this book should not be limited to students and scholars of social change. It should be of interest as well to those who identify themselves as organizational theorists and those exploring the concept of professionalism. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, faculty.