Homo Voluntarius and the Rural Idyll: Voluntary Work, Trust and Solidarity in Rural and Urban Areas


  • Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen Danish Centre for Rural Research University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark
  • Gert Tinggaard Svendsen Department of Political Science Aarhus University, Denmark


Based on Mancur Olson’s and Robert Putnam’s theories, this article discusses whether it is more difficult to recruit volunteers in urban than in rural areas. We use data from the Danish Rural-Urban Barometer (2011/12), which contains 2000 valid responses from urban and rural respondents. We show that, in the case of Denmark, rural dwellers actually do more volunteer work than city dwellers in an environment characterized by relatively more trust and solidarity within the local area. All things being equal, increased urbanisation will therefore in the long run reduce volunteerism and increase the relative number of Homo Oeconomicus at the expense of Homo Voluntarius and the rural idyll. ------------------------------------------------------------ Résumé En se basant sur les théories de Mancur Olson et de Robert Putman, cet article s'interroge sur la difficulté de recruter des volontaires en milieu urbain ou rural. Nous utilisons des données du Baromètre Urbain-Ruraux Danois (2011/2012), qui contient 2000 réponses valides de répondants urbains et ruraux. Nous montrons que, dans le cas du Danemark, dans un environnement caractérisé par une confiance et une solidarité générale locale, les habitants ruraux font en fait plus de volontariat que les citadins. Toutes choses étant égales par ailleurs, l'augmentation de l'urbanisation réduira donc à long terme le volontariat et réduira le nombre relatif d'Homo Oeconomicus au détriment de l'Homo Voluntarius et de l'idylle rurale.

Author Biographies

Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen, Danish Centre for Rural Research University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark

Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen is a Professor of Rural Sociology, Department of Environmental and Business Economics, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark. PhD (History) in 2004 and MSc (Anthropology and Russian language) in 1996.

Gert Tinggaard Svendsen, Department of Political Science Aarhus University, Denmark

Gert Tinggaard Svendsen is a Professor of Comparative Politics, Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University, Denmark. PhD (Econ.) in 1996 and MSc (Pol.Sci.) in 1991.


Additional Files