History | Society | Theory

Our Blog

Voluntariness is more than voluntary civic engagement. Appeals for voluntary self-conduct, compliance, and sacrifice permeate our daily routines. For instance, we are called upon to take good care of our bodies and make the best of our lives, work overtime (because we love our jobs), or use a Corona tracing app and thus be a responsible citizen. Voluntary practices such as these are performed as acts of freedom, yet are enabled, endorsed, and sometimes demanded by manifold expectations and conditions beyond our reach.

This blog explores the power of voluntariness and how people and societies are governed through voluntariness. We very much hope that the scope of our topics and approaches will expand continuously over the course of time. We invite you to read our monthly posts, join the discussion, and comment on our articles.

Recent Posts

Our Toolbox

Voluntariness inspires our research and our empirical projects, organizes them thematically, and guides them methodologically. This triple linchpin entwines a broad spectrum of disciplinary fields such as philosophy, history, and sociology.

Working with and understanding voluntariness requires the use of a fair number of methodological tools. For instance, voluntariness prompts us to reflect upon agency or upon the Eigen-Sinn of actors who reject the call for voluntary participation or are not even affected by it. In our toolbox you might take a look at our constantly growing assortment of handy equipment or see how we use voluntariness as the tool of choice in our analyses.

Toolbox Update

Research Unit

We are a group of historians, sociologists, and philosophers at the Universities of Erfurt, Jena, and Oldenburg, plus a number of associated scholars around the globe.

Together, we form the interdisciplinary Research Unit on Voluntariness, funded by the German Research Foundation (FOR 2983) since 2020. The variety of our individual research projects underscores the power, significance, and transformations of voluntariness from the Middle Ages to the present.

Our Projects

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What’s Going On?

The Research Unit on Voluntariness is more than just our team. We are part of a growing international community of scholars who share an interest in the concept of voluntariness. We invite fellow researchers to join the discussion, not just in writing but also in person. For the next few years we are planning workshops and lecture series, and we will let you know what’s happening around voluntariness and our research unit.

Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted about news, events, and guests as well as all sorts of sidelines! Connect with us via our social media sites on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so you don’t miss anything!

News & Sidelines


Currently all our talks and discussions are taking place as digital events, but you are invited to join us online. To register for our events, please feel free to get in touch with our coordinating team!