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The Potentials of Civil Society: Solidarity and Crisis Management (SolZiv)

Research Team:

Jun 01, 2020 — Dec 31, 2020


The coronavirus pandemic has upended social life as we know it. Everyday life is marked by containment measures like physical distancing, mandatory face masks, school closures and limited access to retail facilities and communal spaces. These measures are based on the principle of solidarity: We protect each other from infection and our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. However, the state can only enforce solidarity to a certain extent. Ultimately, it is practiced by citizens on a voluntary basis. As in past crises, civil society has a key role here. It connects citizens, promotes solidarity, and assists those unable to cope on their own. In addition, it acts as a critical voice and calls attention to grievances. At the same time, limited freedom of movement and assembly have rendered traditional forms of civic engagement difficult if not impossible.  

The SolZiv project examines the extent and conditions of solidarity behavior in civil society contexts. Firstly, who engages in civil activities and in which way? How can hands-on civil engagement be implemented despite extensive contact restrictions?  Also, who benefits from it and who feels left out? Which offers are taken up, which are not? These questions are crucial to the long-term consequences of the current pandemic for society and to devise policies that effectively support civil society in tackling this crisis.

To systematically map the present dilemma of civil society, we will conduct public opinion surveys in five European countries (with two waves in Germany) as well as a survey of civil society organizations in Germany. The joint project is funded by the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) and located at the intersection of sociology, psychology, and political science. The analytic focus is on sociology of emotions and social inequality (PI Christian von Scheve, FU Berlin), personality psychology (Jule Specht, HU Berlin) and comparative research on civil society and political participation. (Swen Hutter, FU Berlin/WZB).