Special orders of Catholic welfare in Germany in the 19th and 20th century

PhD Project

As a part of the research field 'Special Legal Orders. Normative Diversity in the 19th and 20th Centuries', my project investigates how Catholics as a social group developed specific normative orders and how these orders related to state law.

The main focus lies on social policy and poor relief. This field was traditionally dominated by confessional groups, but became increasingly defined as a responsibility of the state during the second half of the 19th century. This seemingly restricted the compentences and activities of the many religious providers of care and relief who had hitherto been active in this field. However, state action regarding poor relief was largely implemented in such a way that, while the state claimed the task of guaranteeing the general welfare of its citizens for itself, it delegated the responsibility for the actual delivery of these guaranteed services to non-state actors. The result was therefore not a state monopolisation of poor relief, but instead the coexistence of private and public welfare.

Key questions of the project thus concern the relationship between public and private (in this case, Catholic) welfare providers. How were coexistence, cooperation, or overlapping spheres of competence organised? How were possible conflicts resolved? Did organisations representing Catholic interests influence legislation and welfare policy and thus the structure of the legal framework — and if so, how? In addition, the project investigates the development of internal and organisational norm setting within the Catholic groups, e.g. regarding the tendencies of increasing professionalisation and centralisation.

Finally, (confessional) private actors used the framework provided by state regulation also to operate in areas beyond state-regulated policy, opening up new branches of social services and thereby setting standards for public social policy. This phenomenon of the development of ‘non-state social policy’ will also be examined in the study.

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