Keywords: Citizen Participation; Scene Styles; Third Sector; Civic Cultures, Volunteer Organizations.
This article takes a fresh look at the challenge that contemporary civil society faces from the rise of ephemeral forms of social engagement, shifting the emphasis from the organizational factors at the centre of the debate on volunteer action towards the cultural variables highlighted by the civic action approach. The current phase of Italy's third sector has been marked both by new associative processes and by their dissociative effects, but without these being adequately explained. The ethnographic perspective here adopted focuses on the scene styles shaping everyday group life, drawing attention to their role in mediating the relationship between the spread of new forms of social participation and the dissociative effects under way. The research undertaken suggests that these effects have a dual origin: first, they derive from the crisis in established models of social activism, especially these models' failure to regulate associative ties; second, the identified dissociative implications are heightened by the organizational approach through which emergent forms of civil engagement are generally managed.