What holds us together

How is society doing in the corona crisis? That has to be talked about – in the thinking space for social market economy.

Potsdam: Some passers-by with face masks walk along the well-frequented shopping street Brandenburger Strasse.

MPeople go shopping for their older neighbors, caregivers get applause, and people donate to keep nonprofits alive. The corona crisis apparently not only arouses fears in people, but also the desire to stand by others.

While hatred in social networks and acts of extremist violence hit the headlines a few months ago, descriptions of consideration and solidarity are piling up. Is social cohesion in Germany possibly better than expected? And what has to be done so that the mood does not change and people continue to pull together?

Frank Appel, the former national soccer player Gerald Asamoah, who is now committed to helping children with heart disease, and other experts will discuss these questions on Tuesday at the “Denkraum für Soziale Marktwirtschaft” (from 6.30 p.m. in the livestream on faz.net). Talks in the run-up to the FAZ event, which is being held jointly with Deutsche Post, the IFOK Institute and other companies, show a differentiated picture: things are going relatively well in Germany at the moment. With our social system, we are better equipped than others to prevent many people from being left behind in a crisis. But there are also losers, especially mothers, for whom experts believe that too little is being done.

Appel: “The alternative would be layoffs”

In the FAZ podcast, Post Manager Frank Appel praised the resilience of the social market economy, in particular the unemployment insurance and the spa workers’ allowance financed from it. “This is an intelligent social security system that keeps people in work, the alternative would be layoffs,” said Appel. The service, which is financed jointly by the company and employees, will ultimately lead to Germany being able to “start up” faster than other countries, thus keeping the economic hardship as low as possible. Germany is also doing well with its health system. According to Appel, above all because it is not a purely state system, but “a good combination of private and statutory health insurance companies”. The functioning social system is therefore a basis for ensuring that people do not get into acute need and are even able to support others.

But what is it anyway that holds us together? The sociologist Jutta Allmendinger differentiates between the small “we” and the large “we”. The little “we” are family and friends. “That works in Germany. Most people have friends and family, ”said the President of the Berlin Science Center. The decisive question is how society can go from these many small “us” to one big “we”. “We realize that it is very important that you have strong networks with other people, in clubs for example, and that you have trust in other people,” said Allmendinger. Many of these nodes have been cut in the past, for example due to the lower ties to popular parties and religions. The corona crisis is now reinforcing this tendency, among other things because hardly any new acquaintances would be made in lockdown.

The Berlin Science Center is currently researching who is particularly suffering from the Corona crisis with an online survey. The sociologist says that two groups are “extremely sagging” in terms of their satisfaction: “Parents with young children, and if you again differentiate between men and women, it is women in particular.” The women are not just professional, but also Significantly more dissatisfied with their family situation than they were before the crisis. One sees a “rapid crash” there. The second group that is particularly affected are the small self-employed, whose economic existence is particularly threatened.

In order to take countermeasures, the problems of families should be heard better when decisions are made about closings of schools and daycare centers. Allmendinger sees errors primarily in communication: if schools have to remain closed, for example, then it must be said at the same time how the families are being helped, be it through better equipment for digital lessons, external contacts or opening of playgrounds.