It is often said and a very big word: “society as a whole”. The adjective has recently been mainly used in conjunction with “task” and describes something that should point far beyond society. Because society is actually the largest conceivable whole of a country. “Society as a whole” is the superlative that holds the present and the future accountable.
In the Corona crisis, “society as a whole” is particularly common. The assigned tasks are far in the future, at least in terms of financial consequences. Therefore, it is now important to ask if and where the adjective is really justified. A task for society as a whole is usually an expensive affair during the pandemic. It is often intended for individual groups, but is by no means funded by them alone.
This applies, for example, to the financing of care, which Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) of Public Health describes as a task for society as a whole, to limit the personal contribution of people in need of care to 700 euros. In addition, care providers should be paid better – a task for society as a whole – without having to pay for it alone. Further tasks for society as a whole are the nationwide expansion of broadband and equipping teaching staff with laptops.
In the word ‘society as a whole’ an appeal is made to the community to show solidarity. At the same time, however, it speaks of subsidiarity, ie the principle of the social market economy, according to which individuals must first take care of themselves, then family or friends and finally society, no longer from the bottom up, but from the top down. Below.
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But solidarity cannot function without the responsibility of the individual. Obviously, poor people need help if they cannot afford their share of care. But should the general public also take the burden off those who have enough money? Should the general public pay for teachers’ computers or should the employer pay? In general, should high-speed internet be funded by everyone or those who use it first? “Social as a whole” threatens to become a term that stands for only one thing: the disdainful redistribution of financial burdens.