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Voluntarism and Citizenship: A Response to Lena Dominelli

Abstract

This article responds to Dominelli’s contribution by mapping three lines of discussion. The first relates to the issue of how to understand voluntary work with regard to the realization of citizenship. The authors argue that this understanding depends on the way citizenship is conceived. Whereas a rights-based conception of citizenship focuses on issues of equal access to voluntary work, a duty-oriented notion of citizenship tends to see voluntarism as embedded in an educational strategy, alongside professionalized social work. The authors plead for an alternative understanding of voluntary work and social work as joined partners in practices of ‘learning democracy’. The second line of discussion revolves around the relation between social and political dimensions of citizenship. With Dominelli, the authors point out how the obscuring of the political dimension risks to nurture societal discourses that put pressure on the welfare state. The third point relates to the difficulties in positioning voluntary work with regard to professional social work. One of these difficulties is the tendency to over-romanticize voluntary work as warm, informal, generous, while giving an exclusively technical reading of social work professionalization.

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Correspondence to Maria De Bie.

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De Bie, M., Roose, R. Voluntarism and Citizenship: A Response to Lena Dominelli. Found Sci 21, 399–403 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10699-014-9400-0

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Keywords

  • Citizenship
  • Learning democracy
  • Social work
  • Volunteer work