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The devil's poor and the invisible city charity, order and agency in early modern England


The devil's poor and the invisible city charity, order and agency in early modern England

Engler, Steven (1998) The devil's poor and the invisible city charity, order and agency in early modern England. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This dissertation examines the discourses and practices of charity and poor relief in early modern England in order to characterize changing views of the relation between the individual and the basis of social order. The first part proposes a genealogy of idleness, drawing on Weber's analysis of Protestant worldly asceticism, which posits the rationalization of the conduct of life, and on Foucault's analysis of governmentality, which posits the converging governance of populations and individual conduct in the emerging early modern state. The second part considers charity as a set of transactional relations and examines changing views of the link between social boundaries and order. It then examines the increasing use of 'idleness' as a criterion distinguishing deserving and undeserving poor and traces the obverse of this process: a new emphasis on the formation of industrious habits as a means of fostering the prosperity and order of the nation. The third part argues first that puritan views of the use of time brought the invisible city into the world: a methodical conduct of life marked inclusion among the godly, linking individual agency to God's transcendent order. It then argues that this rationalization of activity through constant attention to time converged with attempts to reform and govern conduct in poor relief practices of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The ethical and temporal antecedence of the heavenly city was replaced by the antecedence of the state, whose efforts to reform the character of the poor constituted a new governance of conduct. Emerging processes of governmentality were premised on this consonance of self-interested individual activity and the maintenance of social order.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religions and Cultures
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Engler, Steven
Pagination:ix, 309 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Thesis Supervisor(s):Despland, Michel
ID Code:785
Deposited By: Concordia University Library
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009 17:14
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:14
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