Non-Profit Organisations in Public-Service Delivery

(This is an archived page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book.  Current versions are at book contents).

Mary Kaldor gives five different meanings for the term 'civil society' in her book Global Civil Society, (chapter 1).  The meaning and context have changed for historical reasons, but in all cases refer to groups of people other than the government and its institutions.  As used here, the term refers to any non-profit organisation, including charities. 

It is possible for civil society to offer alternatives for some State-provided services, allowing consumer choice and avoiding the need for bureaucratic central management.  In the care sector, for example, it is possible to provide a wide variety of service offerings by using a mix of public funding and private charitable donations.  Civil society tends to have employees with a desire to serve the public rather than a profit motive; churches, for example, can call upon volunteers to provide some services. 

An individualist argument against using civil society, as compared to commercial services, could be that the absence of the profit motive might reduce the capital available for innovation and for improving service quality.