Civil society after COVID: on re-building a virtuous civic culture

Social impact Community development Economic development Civic leadership Community engagement Australia

Australia has begun a new decade faced with an unprecedented economic and social challenge.

At the end of March 2020, federal government debt had already climbed to $430 billion, some $37 billion higher than forecast before the pandemic. Many billions more are likely to be added to that debt.

Civic repair entails attending with care to obligations arising between citizens and to strengthening bonds of community strained during the period of lockdown. Community, informed by recognition and acceptance of mutual obligation, lies at the heart of civil society, a key mediating component of the compact between state and citizen.

Classical liberalism appropriately affords great importance to the liberty of the individual. However, that liberty finds its fullest expression in a society characterised by a spirit of reciprocity and respect for the wellbeing of others. A strong civic culture will be integral to the return to prosperity from the scourge of pandemic.

Culture refers to a whole way of ordering life and, as such, cannot be adjusted or corrected quickly. It can, however, be influenced, encouraged, and shaped by actions of government.

This report examines the scope for such action and, in particular, the importance to a healthy civic culture of striking an appropriate balance between individual liberty and community well-being.

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CIS Analysis Paper 10