The Third Sector in Europe

The Third Sector in Europe

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Adalbert Evers and Jean-Louis Laville

This book explores Europe’s third sector – the non-profit organisations and providers of social services such as mutuals, co-operatives, associations, voluntary organisations and charities: these elements of a civil society are important yet often overlooked features in contemporary socio-economics and social policy.

Chapter 5: From institutional fixation to entrepreneurial mobility? The German third sector and its contemporary challenges

Ingo Bode and Adalbert Evers

Subjects: economics and finance, welfare economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy


Ingo Bode and Adalbert Evers The introduction of the notion of the ‘third sector’ into economic and social sciences during the last two decades has without a doubt proved to be a success story, becoming a catchword for a broad area of theory and research. Analytically it does not provide many insights into the economic, sociopolitical and cultural logic shaping the various fields in which non-profit organizations are engaged. However, this notion symbolizes a research agenda directed towards ideas that have been ignored for a long time. Therefore it has a pragmatic quality which makes it useful for this chapter. On a more theoretical level, understanding these fields as an ‘intermediary sphere’ of modern society has some advantages over conceiving them as a ‘third sector’. The organizations operating in this sector are rooted in civic action, but in their everyday existence we find an intertwining and mutual balance of rationales coming from all sectors of society. Each of these rationales is dominant in the basic institutions of the other sectors, whereas in the third sector they interact in various ways. Thus third sector organizations (TSOs) are linked to the sphere of politics by their attempt to spell out versions of a public good. Correspondingly, they make use of state-derived resources. Moreover, there are influences from the market side: many TSOs experience a need to compete, to try to gain economic autonomy (for example by the means of a surplus) and are driven by a kind of entrepreneurial spirit. Finally, TSOs...

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