Interest Groups & Advocacy

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 600–620 | Cite as

Uniting the living through the dead: how voluntary associations made death a selective benefit

  • Adam ChamberlainEmail author
  • Alixandra B. Yanus
  • Nicholas Pyeatt
Original Article


Voluntary membership associations played a pivotal role in the development of American society after the Civil War. These associations were active in the practices of death, but the extant literature has yet to provide a framework for understanding death as a selective benefit of membership, especially for politically oriented associations. This study adds to scholars’ understandings by providing a tripartite classification of death as a selective benefit: the ritual of death (funerals), the presentation of death (cemeteries, headstones, and grave markers), and the memorialization of death (memorial days). Through these actions, associations of this era were able to use death to motivate existing membership, uniting them to a greater purpose, demonstrating to members that their associational lives would not perish upon their passing. In this way, associations used death to build social and political capital among the living.


Voluntary associations Death Burial Selective benefits Social capital Political capital 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Coastal Carolina UniversityConwayUSA
  2. 2.High Point UniversityHigh PointUSA
  3. 3.Pennsylvania State University-AltoonaAltoonaUSA

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