Chapter

Introduction

Rebecca Anne Allahyari

in Visions of Charity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780520221444
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520935327 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520221444.003.0001
Introduction

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This chapter focuses on white, middle-class Americans, who have laid the groundwork for an exploration of the social nature of the American character within the context of caring for others. It argues against these more pessimistic accounts of American character as ethnography moves beyond the interview and survey research to suggest that in volunteer work Americans attempt to reconcile compassion with individualism, as they learn to practice “institutional kindness.” These volunteers provide insights that lead to an understanding of how volunteers learn institutional kindness, the argument that individuals who take control of their institutions may establish moral community. Participation in social institutions, especially voluntary societies, balanced the potentially excessive individualism of the American character. Visions of charity contributes to gender-based debates by using a social psychological approach, which, with its attention to roles and selves, allows to explore how structural arrangements influence the construction of the caring self.

Keywords: visions of charity; Americans; social nature; volunteer; gender; caring self

Chapter.  8999 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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