WSI Mitteilungen 05/2021

: Issue 05/2021

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 343-354

Silke van Dyk

Gratuitous and Voluntary? The Re-negotiation of the Social and the Informalisation of Work


This article focuses on the growing importance of volunteer work in core areas of social services and infrastructure – a development that is largely undisputed as a fact, while its analytical characterisation and evaluation diverge. More specifically, this development is analysed as a re-negotiation of the social between state, market and civil society, which implies a re-adjustment of the relationship between state and citizen. The article focuses on the consequences of this re-adjustment for the organisation of (voluntary) work, which is understood and analysed as informalisation. The thesis is that grey areas of work are currently emerging in the area of tension between voluntary and gainful employment, which has hardly been investigated empirically and which is deproblematised by the glorification of volunteers as everyday heroes. The article examines key (labour market and socio-political) drivers of informalisation and shows how and to what extent the widespread praise of engagement and current engagement policies contributes to the disappearance of emerging informalised fields of activity from critical labour research. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 355-363

Fabian Kessl, Holger Schoneville

The New Charity Economy – A Symptom of Welfare State Transformation


The emergence and expansion of food banks, soup kitchens as well as charity shops for clothing and furniture can be understood as the establishment of a new system of poverty alleviation, which the article describes as a “new charity economy”. From a welfare state analytical perspective, their establishment in the 21st century is a symptom of the current transformation of the welfare state. The charity economy is situated in the shadow of the welfare state context and is no longer mediated through individual rights. Rather, the support is largely moderated by compassion and pity, goes hand in hand with the dependence on volunteer work and donations and is at the same time dependent on economic interests. From a social analysis perspective, it can be shown that the system is accompanied by a specific form of secondary integration, which, however, takes place under the conditions of exclusion. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, Seiten 364-373

Tine Haubner

“Well, someone less trained could do it” Volunteer Work in the Social Services


The social professions are subject to processes of increasing economisation. At the same time, an increase in the importance of volunteer work, also promoted by the state, can be observed. Both developments pose great challenges to the social professions, which are still considered semi-professional “women’s professions”. This article addresses the tension between the growing importance of volunteer work and an incomplete professionalisation in care of the elderly and social work. Two theses are presented based on empirical findings: First, the use of volunteers in the social professions represents a response to deficits in care, which are caused by processes of rationalisation and economisation. According to the second thesis, volunteering plays an ambivalent role: On the one hand, it relieves the workload of professionals, whereas on the other hand, it does not contribute to the upgrading of the social professions, but rather threatens to promote their deprofessionalisation. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 374-384

Laura Boemke, Silke van Dyk, Tine Haubner

Voluntary Work as a Resource. Utilisation of Volunteering and the Subjective Perspectives of the Volunteers


This article examines the interplay between the structural framework of voluntary engagement and the subjective interpretive patterns and practical resources of those involved. Specifically, the aim is to explore the enabling conditions for the externalisation of social and cultural services into the sphere of voluntary work. First, the authors present empirical examples of the utilisation of volunteering in social services, infrastructure and education in order to analyse the perspectives of the volunteers involved in this practice as well as their patterns of action. It becomes clear that many volunteers – even those who problematise the political use of volunteer work – do not personally feel instrumentalised. Overall, the study reveals a tension between subjective experiences in everyday volunteering and the labour market and socio-political implications of volunteering at the societal level ; a tension that – according to the thesis – contributes significantly to the degree to which volunteering can be instrumentalised as a resource. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 385-392

Kori Allan

Volunteering as Hope Labour


Based on a Canadian case study, the article examines how voluntary work is being reconfigured in precarious labour markets. The author argues that like an internship, volunteering is increasingly construed as a form of hope labour, premised on the logic of investment. Hope labour promises that exposure and experience will possibly lead to regular employment in the future, but in fact it is currently used as a free resource by non-profit organisations and companies. In workshops for job seekers, experts reproduce a neoliberal logic through which the self is imagined as a portfolio or a bundle of skills that indexes one’s employability and which individuals should independently work on. The un- and underemployed, particularly immigrants, face difficulties accessing volunteer opportunities that develop appropriate skills and networks. Although volunteer positions do not necessarily lead to paid work, unpaid work is simultaneously about filling one’s curriculum vitae and chasing opportunity – prominent forms of neoliberal risk management in contingent and competitive labour markets. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 393-403

Hannah Eberle, Fabian Kessl

Alternatives for Social Inclusion? The Potential of Donation-based Volunteer Services


The guarantee of social participation is a public responsibility of the welfare state. However, this constellation has recently undergone a fundamental transformation. This transformation has been accompanied by a boom in donation-based and voluntarily organised care services, such as food banks (“Tafeln”) and charity shops (“Sozialkaufhäuser”), but also medical advice centres and digital second-hand platforms. These offers are repeatedly attributed with the potential to provide opportunities for the social participation of citizens. Other positions contradict this assessment and see gaps in the increasingly inadequate welfare state guarantee of social participation. Although there is, so far, a lack of differentiation between such offers, only such a systematic differentiation would make it possible to assess their potential for social participation. The article undertakes an ideal-typical differentiation into offered support which is compassion based and charitable, as well as self-organised, solidarity-based and market oriented ; thus allowing reflection into their potential for social inclusion. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 404-408

Peter Klenter

Voluntary service as a (Welfare) State Reserve?


The article examines the legal mechanisms and labour market effects of the voluntary social year (Freiwilliges Sozial Jahr-FSJ) and the federal volunteer service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst-BFD). The central finding is that the aforementioned forms of volunteer work are becoming a new form of temporary work and an integral part of service provision in the social services currently suffering from personnel shortages and cost pressure. In the process legal norms are not being complied with, volunteers exploited as cheap labour and the reconstruction of the welfare state as a driver of precarisation continued. The author comes to the conclusion that this kind of voluntary service undermines the trade union guiding concept of “good work” and civil society engagement based on equality and self-determination is eroded. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 409-414

Tony Evans

Trade Union Positions on the Relationship between Volunteerism and Gainful Employment in Great Britain


Shortly before the end of the New Labour era in Great Britain, the umbrella organisation of the TUC and the agency for the promotion of volunteerism 2009, agreed on a common charter aimed at strengthening the relationship between gainfully employed workers and voluntary workers. The article presents essential areas of focus in the charter and arranges them in the context of historical and current British policy development. It becomes clear how the policy towards volunteering in recent decades changed subsequent to the right-wing conservative- liberal democratic change of government. Trade unions and civil society actors are facing new challenges and the task of updating the 2009 charter. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 415-418

Mike Laufenberg

More than just a Stopgap: The Emancipatory Potential of Civic Concern


The criticism of voluntary work, as put forward by the political economy, diagnoses a growing welfare state instrumentalisation of community-based resources to compensate for the structural deficits in social services to the public. This stopgap thesis does not, however, go far enough in its attempt to illuminate the contradictory relationship between civic society and the welfare state. As the author in this article explains, to correct this the emancipatory potential of civic society engagement must be more expansively appreciated as it contains criticism of the inadequacy and demands of welfare capitalism. The ‘caring society’ becomes an arena for political and social battles for distribution, recognition and participation. The mobilisation and organisational potential of these battles requires systematic examination and application. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 419-420

Stephan Lessenich

The Misery of the Pandemic and the Plight of the Responsibility


The subtle moralisation about personal lifestyles has been on the agenda of late modern society for decades but as a consequence of the corona virus has reached unforeseen heights. In times of pandemic, concern is about more than only ‘social cohesion’ which the responsible individual is supposed to establish using his own initiative; now human existence is at stake. With corona the ‘neo-social’ socialisation programme comes into its own: we should all behave and consider ourselves to be economic and moral subjects who, in assuming our own responsibility should take on social responsibility and save the lives of our fellow citizens. more … (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 5/2021, pp. 421-424

Silke Helfrich

The Commons: Beyond volunteerism and appeals for citizen participation


The article introduces the practice of the commons, which aims at a self-organised economy beyond the market and the state and establishes new relationships and forms of municipal services and meaningful occupations. Based on three examples, the author describes the potential of the commons and presents the strengths which are identified over other forms of volunteerism. It is argued that the commons cannot satisfactorily be measured against the conventional dichotomous viewpoint of ‘either – or’ (state or market; volunteerism or employment) but rather, in crossing parameters develops its emancipatory potential. more … (in German)