This paper starts from qualitative research on volunteering and citizenship, with a special focus on volunteering within a setting of restorative justice and mediation. In a first stage, the author reconstructs two models of meaningfulness as hermeneutical lenses to better understand how volunteers see their engagement and experiences as a source of meaningfulness. The paper argues that a biographical model of meaningfulness is in need of a complementary approach to meaningfulness, which focuses on transformational experiences with a strong existential depth. (...) In a second stage, the paper dialogues with the experiences and narratives of the volunteers, and shows how their understanding of citizenship informs, and transforms their ideas of meaningfulness. Both the biographical and the existential approach to meaningfulness appear to be deeply influenced by the volunteers’ civic imaginaries. (shrink)
This final reply responds to Honohan’s invitation to articulate the Arendtian tone of the key-note paper. It spells out the philosophical intuition that the political life of citizens, at least potentially, is capable of making visible what makes human life worthwhile and fully meaningful, and the philosophical curiosity to see whether traces of this deep political awareness can be retrieved in dialogues with volunteers. In response to Dekker’s critical doubts, this final reply clarifies the central stakes of Claes’s paper. The (...) core argument was not to show that the biographical model of meaningfulness is the prevailing approach of meaning in/of volunteering, but to assess the potentials and limits of the model’s interpretive power. Moreover, the paper argues for an alternative, existential model of meaningfulness. This approach refers to deep experiences of meaning that emerge from the practice of volunteering and that shift into powerful political experiences of hope, and a lived sense of equality. (shrink)
This article argues, firstly, that voluntary civic practices are not doomed to fall prey to a Big Society rhetoric and a cynical politics of cuts in social spending. It all depends on how these civic practices are promoted and what kind of civic discourse is communicated through the channels of social media and public opinion. Secondly, the author highlights the political importance of connecting meaningfulness with citizenship.
This introductory article starts by describing the genesis of this special issue and the interconnection of its topics. The editors offer a variety of reading entries into the key-note articles and responses. The article reconstructs the research interests underpinning the idea of integrating meaningfulness, volunteers and citizenship. It highlights the explicit interdisciplinary design of the special issue, and shows how the key-note authors, and their respondents, weave connections between meaningfulness, volunteering and citizenship. And, finally, the editors bring the background understandings (...) of the key-note papers to the foreground, and reconstruct a non-intentional meta-level discussion on two fundamental concepts and their interplay: self and world. (shrink)