walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Foucault describing a transition in the understanding of poverty

The medieval Church took Matthew 25:40 (if you did -- or didn't -- do it to or for someone really hard up, you did -- or didn't -- do it to or for me, too) quite literally: if you failed to give a beggar alms, you were screwed. Foucault is quoting someone in the process of describing how this transitioned to a more organized, public form of assistance for the poor, the associated end of private assistance, and a dramatic change in the perception of anyone who did not willingly participate in whatever the public "assistance" might be. No more, that poor guy might be Jesus. Instead, that poor guy is doing Satan's Work.

Here's the quote: "When a Charitable bureau has been set up in a town, Christ will no longer take the appearance of a poor man who, to maintain his lazy, idle life, refuses to submit to an order established by genuinely holy means for the relief of true poverty."

Cite says this is from Lallemand's _Histoire de la Charite_, Paris, 1902-1912, vol 4, pp 216-26, assuming I correctly navigated the citation in the kindle version I have.

I guess the modern day parallel would be, Christ will be living in Section 8 housing, possibly shopping at Wal-mart with one of the electronic cards that are used to access benefits such as food stamps. I wonder if she'll be buying peanut butter and diapers, too?

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