The Social Organization of Disease: Emotions and Civic Action, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Social Organization of Disease

Emotions and Civic Action, 1st Edition

By Jochen Kleres


220 pages | 18 B/W Illus.

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Empirically, this book is a case-study analysis of dissolution processes in German AIDS organizations. Indeed, why is it that civic organizers start out with a commitment to a cause but end up dissolving their organization? This question is exactly what Kleres seeks to tackle within The Social Organization of Disease.

Focusing on the emotional bases of dissolved German AIDS organizations to develop a typology of civic action and organizing, Kleres presents a perspective on non-profit organizations that analyses organizational development through the emotional sense making of individual organizers, within the light of larger political processes and cultural contexts. To this end, this volume develops and applies a new methodology for researching emotions empirically, expanding the scope of narrative analysis. However, parallel to this, The Social Organization of Disease also explores how shifting discursive processes establish emotional climates and thus impact on state policies and the evolution of AIDS organizing.

The book would appeal to sociologists and political scientists working in the field of social movements and non-profit organisations: but it would also appeal to those who are interested in the sociology of emotions. It would potentially be of interest to non-profit scholars who consider community-based organizations, volunteerism and advocacy, and secondarily, to medical sociologists interested in AIDS service organizations. Sociology, International relations, Social Work, Political Science. May be of interest for NGO-activists and/or employees and leadership.


By curiously focusing on disbanded organizations and the emotions of the actors involved, rather than their imputed reasons or interests, Kleres' research opens new vistas of analysis and theorizing. This is an important book, innovative and insightful.

Jack Barbalet, Department of Sociology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Based on a rich empirical research, Jochen Kleres develops an action-based theory of non-profit. Building upon social movement studies as well as studies of volunteerism, he convincingly argue for going beyond a rational choice approach, considering instead the motivational role of emotions. A very original and tought-provoking contribution to reflections in both fields and beyond.

Donatella della Porta, Professor of Political Science, Dean of the Institute for Humanities and the Social Sciences and Director of the PD program in Political Science and Sociology at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, Italy

Table of Contents


Conceptual Problems

Theoretical Problems

Theories of Volunteerism

Advances: Theories of Social Movements

Conceptual Problems Revisited: Empowering Distinctions

A Framework

Structure of the Book: On Studying Disbanded AIDS Organizations


Towards a Political Sociology of AIDS Service Organizations

A First Premise: The Social Construction of AIDS

The (Non-)Emergence of AIDS Organizations

A Second Premise: The Evolution of Public Health

Queer Corporatism

Professionalization and its Discontents

Power in the Field: The Field of AIDS Organizing

AIDS Service Organizations as Political and Discursive Agents

Conclusion: AIDS Service Organizations as a Form of Power


AIDS Organizations in Germany

Parallels: A Brief Note on the AIDS Discourse in Germany

The Role of Identity: The Emergence of AIDS Relief Organizations

The Power of Discourse: The Evolution of AIDS Policies in Germany

The Stakes of AIDS Organizing and of its Political Inclusion

The Evolution and Transformation of AIDS Relief

The Normalization of AIDS

Differences – The German Case in Contrast



Making Sense of Neo-Corporatism and Neo-Institutionalism

Neo-Corporatism – Principle Considerations

The Rationalist Premises of Neo-Corporatism


Key Assumptions of Neo-Institutionalism

Neo-Institutionalism and Social Change

The Sensemaking Approach

Sensemaking: The Process of Organizing

Seven Characteristics and Some Sources of Sensemaking



Sensemaking, Narrative Analysis, and Emotions

Narrative Methodology and Analysis

Convergences: Sensemaking and Narrative Analysis

Emotions and Narrative Analysis

The Narrativity of Emotions

Towards Narrative Emotion Analysis

Other Linguistic Manifestations of Emotions

A Note on Realism in Narrative Interviewing

Non-Conscious Emotions

Sensemaking and Emotions


Activists, Volunteers, and Small Town Adversities

Paul’s Activism: Moral Shocks in a Climate of Adversity


Communal Counter Organizing and its Discontents

Paul’s Retreat


Volunteerism: Sandra and Claudia

Getting Involved

The Temperate Experience of Stigmatization

Volunteerism vs. Activism





AIDS Politics Between Compassion and Pity

Peter: Volunteerism, Political Inclusion, and Self-Confidence

Decline and Absurdity

Compassion, Rationalized AIDS Discourse, and Depoliticization

Formalization and Conflicts

Alfons: Pity and Avoiding Narration

Irrelevance: An Urban-Professional Perspective

Supporting Others and Pity

Dissolution: A Minimal Tragedy



Cuddly Easterners, Professionalism, and the West

Professionalization as a Tragedy of Activism: Adam

Community and its Preservation in Changing Times

Life in the Face of Death

In the West: Ambivalences of Building an Eastern German AIDS Relief Chapter

Ironies of Community Organizing: Professionalization

The Woes of Normalization

Funding Conflicts

The Feeling of Alienation & Activism

Professionalism: Erwin

"My First Job as a Social Worker": Professionalism

The Burdens of Grassroots Participation

Personal or Political? Funding Conflicts

Phoenix from the Ashes: Continuation


Solidarity and Communal Organizing: Benjamin

Positive Identifications

But Whose Identity? Inertia and Dissolution

Critique of Professionalization

The Funding Conflict: East vs. West?



Professionalism and the Limits of Migrantic Activism

Medical Professionalism: Sarah

Getting Involved: Discoveries of Medical Professionalism

Community Dynamics, the Burdens of Professional Work, and Professional Pride

Inclusions and Transformations

Emerging Conflicts

Cut-Backs and Gradual Dissolution

Professional Volunteerism: Onur

Intermediating Difference: Professional Volunteering

Constructions of Success: Bridging in Action

Conflicts and Dissolution

Hybrid Activism: Anıl

Hybrid Identifications

Navigating Conflicts




Conclusion: The Meaningful, Emotional, and Powered Nature of Nonprofits

A Different Take on Nonprofits

Three Modes of Civic Action

Modes of Civic Action, Narrativity, and Sensemaking

Hybridity and Interrelatedness

Contexts and Conditions

Modes of Civic Action and Civic Organizations




Appendix 1: Reflections on Fieldwork

Appendix 2: Transcription System

About the Author

Jochen Kleres is a postdoctoral researcher at the Gothenburg Centre of Globalization and Development, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Sociology

This series presents cutting-edge developments and debates within the field of sociology. It provides a broad range of case studies and the latest theoretical perspectives, while covering a variety of topics, theories and issues from around the world. It is not confined to any particular school of thought.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General