Volunteering and Politics

Conditions for participation and democracy in Europe
Submmited by Andreas Heindl on Sunday, 15 May 2011

The major interest of this workshop was to identify possible differences between volunteering and democratic participation. For this purpose, we first formed two working groups. Both discussed similar questions like:

What requirements are necessary for volunteering / democratic participation?

What function does volunteering / democratic participation in democratic and respectively autocratic societies have?

The participants discovered that volunteering and democratic participation differ depending on the context and the kinds of society. Within both concepts, more or less responsibility and a more or less critical approach are possible. A society resting on critical thinking and freedom for many people brings a much broader range of volunteering about and allows for more democratic participation. Equally, a system not trusting the individual also restricts the scope for volunteering. Some very interesting examples of the situation of volunteering in Belarus helped the participants of the workshop to better understand the meaning of volunteering in a democratic society. The group concluded, that a situation in which the state claims to understand and fulfill all needs is not desirable – and that therefore a society without volunteering is just as undesirable as a political system without volunteering.

Moderated by Pavel Turchaninov (Translator, Minsk) and Andreas Heindl (Research fellow at the Institute of Political Sciences, Heidelberg University)

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