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[vol-uh n-tuh-riz-uh m] /ˈvɒl ən təˌrɪz əm/
Philosophy. any theory that regards will as the fundamental agency or principle, in metaphysics, epistemology, or psychology.
the principle or practice of supporting churches, schools, hospitals, etc., by voluntary contributions or aid instead of relying on government assistance.
any policy or practice based on voluntary action.
Origin of voluntarism
1830-40; voluntar(y) + -ism
Related forms
voluntarist, noun, adjective
voluntaristic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for voluntarism
  • It brings together three things: pluralism, localism and voluntarism.
  • Given that his goal was to ensure access to land, he was probably right to conclude that voluntarism would not work.
  • Faith used to drive a lot of voluntarism, civic engagement and self-reliance.
  • The timetable of voluntarism is perfect: it provides ample time, but not a day too much of it.
  • Yet this voluntarism and this separation of church and state have not led to religious indifference or religious apathy.
  • The abandonment of voluntarism reflected the change in the underlying situation.
  • First, experience to date indicates that voluntarism will result in only a minority of employees being involved.
  • Three additional variables--work role, voluntarism, ideal incentives--were added to build a quasi-theory of satisfaction.
British Dictionary definitions for voluntarism


(philosophy) the theory that the will rather than the intellect is the ultimate principle of reality
a doctrine or system based on voluntary participation in a course of action
the belief that the state, government, and the law should not interfere with the procedures of collective bargaining and of trade union organization
another name for voluntaryism
Derived Forms
voluntarist, noun, adjective
voluntaristic, adjective


/ˈvɒləntərɪˌɪzəm; -trɪ-/
the principle of supporting churches, schools, and various other institutions by voluntary contributions rather than with state funds
any system based on this principle
Derived Forms
voluntaryist, voluntarist, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for voluntarism

1838, in philosophy, from voluntary + -ism. As the theory or principal of using voluntary action rather than coercion (in politics, etc.), from 1924, American English (Voluntaryism in this sense is recorded from 1883).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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