Article originally published in German by BBE – accessible here
The Corona crisis shows how important it is to have a state that acts and protects; how important a functioning and good infrastructure and services of general interest are for everyone. It also shows the important function of civil society organisations beyond services and self-help. The Corona crisis is like a magnifying glass for many problems and social conditions – it also shows how limited the state’s view of civil society is. This limited view is evident, for example, in state aid such as short-time work benefits and also in the law on non-profit organisations.
We can see that there is an Minister for Economic Affairs who provides aid for the economy. We see that there is a Minister of Health who has this part of the public services in mind. And even if with difficulty, ministries of culture, among others, succeed in getting independent artists* and cultural enterprises to be seen. But the view of the civil society sector with the logic of voluntariness is not well anchored in government and parliament.
The civil society sector is diverse – diverse in financing and activities. Part of the sector contributes to the provision of services of general interest, delivers important activities and organises self-help. Part of the sector provides culture and education where it is not profitable for a profit-oriented market, in a mixture of economic activity and voluntary financing. And a part of the sector – and sometimes the same parts – watches over basic rights, critically observes government action and advocates for groups that are otherwise not given enough attention.
The Corona crisis shows that public services must not depend solely on market events or on the generosity of donors. It shows how important a protective state is. But even this protective state needs control by the public and civil society organizations. We experience that even hard measures are nevertheless publicly discussed, explained and criticized – that is what characterizes a democracy. We are now also experiencing more and more criticism, especially against excessive control, an overly authoritarian approach. The different perspectives of civil society organisations are important for this.