The Politics of Charity

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:
The Politics of Charity

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This chapter illuminates the construction of caring selves in the work of feeding the urban poor. It develops the idea of moral selving in the context of charitable action and makes clear how structural arrangements guide self-betterment while concurrently individual actions make possible particular structural arrangements. It provides an opportunity to consider how volunteerism, charity, rehabilitation, social movement activism, and welfare provision are not mutually exclusive practices but rather are configured in complicated and often contradictory ways in the context of both the actions of different individuals and the work of different organizations. It addresses how the formulation of moral selving and its particular manifestations at Loaves & Fishes and The Salvation Army fits into social psychological understandings of the emotional self and orientation of the self, as well as the feminist literature on the caring self. Furthermore, it indicates an intriguing correlation between the moral rhetoric and institutional structure at The Salvation Army, its emphasis on honor, and the predominantly male nature of the volunteer force and their predominantly working-class roots. The Salvation Army, with its resemblance to muscular Christianity, promised reclaimed manhood through hard work and battle with the evils of the body.

Keywords: moral Selves; religion; volunteerism; welfare provision; feminist literature

Chapter.  10512 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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