Civil society and voluntarism

In recent years, there has been an increased political and academic focus on the involvement on volunteers in welfare services. In Denmark, voluntary organizations are encouraged to partake in Physical Education at public schools or care for the elderly at nursing homes. Voluntary organizations have, however, been part of the Danish welfare mix for more than a hundred years, working especially with marginalized groups: Homeless and poor people, prostitutes, alcoholics, and drug addicts. Most of these associations have been built on a religious foundation. Their contribution is, however, largely neglected, and thus not part of the public or academic narrative of the Danish welfare state.

The aim of this project is to investigate this link between religion and social voluntarism in order to better understand the religious influence on present day Danish society.

The project is driven by questions such as: How do strong religious commitments arise? How do religious doctrines influence voluntary engagement? How does the religious color of social work influence the relation between volunteer and ‘voluntee’? And how have voluntary religious organizations reacted to the growth of and ‘colonization’ by the welfare state?

Concretely, the project is a case study of the organization ‘Indre Mission’ (Inner Mission or Home Mission) – an evangelical wing of the Church of Denmark. Indre Mission originated in the revivalist movements of the early 19th century. Combining a strong focus on the inner experience of the gospel and the Lutheran doctrine of ‘salvation by faith alone’ with a strong emphasis on moral conduct, the organization grew to be central for the social work carried out in Copenhagen in the latter part of the 19th century. Thus, many of the organizations working with vulnerable social groups today originate in the work carried out by Indre Mission. The project works from the hypotheses that the moral-religious doctrine of Indre Mission were central in inspiring commitment and giving a language to philanthropic projects involving voluntary social work. The project aims to understand the link between religious ideas and voluntary social work, how these ideas were institutionalized in the emerging welfare state, and how the religious ideas were aligned with other ideas in modern society such as eugenics and social democracy.

The case study seeks to contribute to research in motives, practices and principles of voluntarism; the relation between civil society and the state; and the welfare state and social citizenship.

The subproject will be carried out by Anders Sevelsted

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Seminar at Australian National University (ANU)

CISTAS researcher, Maj Grasten, is invited to give a seminar at the ANU on her work on global civil society and international law
SSHA annual conference 2017:

The CISTAS project will be presenting two panels at this years 42nd Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association in Quebec, Canada.
Call for contributions to Voluntas special issue:

Civil Society Organizations: the Site of Legitimizing the Common Good.
34th Egos Colloquium in Tallinn:

Call for papers to sub-theme on Civil Society.
33rd Egos Collequium 2017

Sub-theme on Civil Society Organization