This article, taking as its point of departure that voluntary organizations are of crucial importance in a democracy, views the transformation of the Norwegian voluntary sector through the lenses of what happens within the environmental field. Seeing changes within this field as prototypical for the transformation of the voluntary sector more generally, we start with the organizational level and contrast old versus new environmental organizations.
The aim is to ascertain to what extent the newly built organizations are leaving the historically important democratic organizational model. Second, we compare attitudes toward democracy of members of the democratically and non-democratically built organizations: attitudes both toward democracy within a voluntary organization (internal) and democracy in society (external). Furthermore, we compare these findings with what we find for the population at large.
The last section analyses demographic characteristics of organized environmentalists to see whether a new type of elite, more distanced from the population at large, is emerging in the new and nondemocratically built organizations.
The study finds that new organizations are definitely breaking with the democratic organizational model. The support for democracy (internal and external) is comprehensive but not always overwhelming, and there is a tendency in the direction of congruence between organizational structure and individual attitudes. That is, members of democratically built organizations especially value internal but also to some extent external democracy more than members of non-democratically built organizations. However, even if formal democratic structure and democracy as an absolute and generalized value seems to be under pressure, it does not follow that a new type of elitism is emerging.