The present thesis is an attempt to understand the meaning of nonprofit work, both paid and unpaid, in Hong Kong. Specifically, I wish to understand the motivations individuals have for becoming involved in paid and volunteer nonprofit work, and how these individuals negotiate new identities for themselves through their involvement in this work. This thesis argues that, rather than a purely spontaneous outpouring of goodwill, altruism itself is a self-enhancement strategy and a counterbalance to the frustrations imposed by a capitalist society no longer able to offer the same promises for fulfillment in work that might have been expected previously. Altruistic acts, both paid and unpaid, are a way for individuals to renegotiate more positive identities for themselves. The “meaning in meaningful employment belongs disproportionately to those who already enjoy a comparatively great amount of economic freedom. Moving to lower levels of economic freedom finds individuals employed in altruistic roles more likely to perceive of their work as personally fulfilling, rather than identifying with the mission of their chosen organizations, while at the lowest levels, we find individuals who have merely ended up in their roles by accident.
The same self-enhancement strategy used by paid employees appears in the narratives of volunteers. While the primary spoken motivations of volunteers interviewed are to enjoy unique experiences and gain skills, to come into contact with different types of people, and to help others (confirming previous research on the reasons why people volunteer), the specific motivation a volunteer reports aligns closely with their relative level of socioeconomic mobility. Thus, the key difference between volunteers and full-time employees is that volunteers conceive of their volunteering as an enhancement of their primary identity as a worker or member of a family, rather than as a rejection of those roles. I argue that the life cycle of working-class and middle-class Hong Kong people makes societally meaningful employment a luxury that few can afford. In short, the ability to spend one’s time meaningfully is itself a marker of high socioeconomic standing. Thus, those with greater socioeconomic standing are more likely to be praised for their involvement, though their contribution is less reliable, their role is more interchangeable, and the work has the least interaction with the very problems they are trying to solve. Altruism functions as another form of cultural capital with which individuals fashion and assert their own place within the social hierarchy.
Detailed summary in vernacular field only.
Detailed summary in vernacular field only.
Mc Kay, Scott Alan.
Thesis (M.Phil.)--Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2012.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 144-149).
Electronic reproduction. Hong Kong : Chinese University of Hong Kong,  System requirements: Adobe Acrobat Reader. Available via World Wide Web.
s in also in Chinese.
論文摘要 --- p.iii
Declaration of Anonymity and Confidentiality --- p.iv
Acknowledgements --- p.v
List of Figures --- p.vii
Table of Contents --- p.viii
Chapter Chapter 1 --- Introduction --- p.1
About Hong Kong’s nonprofit sector --- p.3
Literature Review --- p.7
Objectives and Significance --- p.28
Methodology --- p.30
Chapter Overview --- p.35
Chapter Chapter 2 --- Employees of NGOs --- p.37
Public performance and private selves: the meaning-motivated employee --- p.38
Challenge and Moral Ambiguity: Experience-motivated Employees --- p.56
Chance and Personal Connection: Unmotivated Employees --- p.65
Conclusion --- p.73
Chapter Chapter 3 --- Volunteers of NGOs --- p.76
Community, Altruism and the Abstract Meaning of Volunteer Work --- p.77
Self-enhancement and Growing Up: Experience-Oriented Volunteering --- p.91
The Influence of the Life Cycle --- p.113
The Social Hierarchy of Moral Capital --- p.117
Conclusion --- p.121
Chapter Chapter 4 --- Conclusion --- p.123
The Thesis --- p.124
Analysis --- p.125
Limitations of the study --- p.130
Suggestions for further research --- p.133
Final Thoughts --- p.136
References cited --- p.137
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