The beginning of the 19th century marks a transition from a “natural” poverty, well integrated into the dependent social relations of the Ancien Régime, to a “problematic” poverty, persisting in a society founded on contractual relationships between autonomous individuals.
As the importance given to the “social question” can attest, the success of liberal democracy depended on its capacity to resolve the problem of dependence created by poverty. From this perspective, the founding paradox of liberal society appears to be how it makes poverty a central issue while at the same time considerably limiting the means for avoiding it - whether in the form of charity or careful planning on the part of the individual. Of course, so-called “social policies” would eventually allow for a major expansion of these means according to a new logic of risk and social rights, especially after the mid-20th century. However, the ongoing crisis of the welfare state casts important doubts on its achievements, suggesting that post-war society may have inherited many of the limitations faced by liberal societies in the 19th century. Conversely, if the logic of risk and social rights does indeed represent a clean break with the problems of classical liberalism, in what context should the present-day crisis of the welfare state be understood?
We invite researchers to reflect on these questions and to propose papers that will further analyse the problem of poverty from the perspective of social relations, as it has developed over the last two centuries.
More specifically, we see three approaches to the question as being particularly promising (although we welcome other approaches as well):
-How is the question of dependence reflected in legislation, philanthropy and popular-class strategies?
-To what extent does the study of poverty – whether in the fields of social work, psychology, medicine, law or economics – allow for a rethinking or a reproduction of social inequality across time?
-Do the new methods of dealing with poverty, introduced during the emergence of the welfare state, represent a clean break with liberalism’s traditional problem of dependence?
Contributions are welcome from all branches of the human and social sciences, as long as they include a historical dimension. The deadline for submitting proposals is April 15th, 2006. All proposals must include a title, a 250-word (maximum) summary and a brief resume. Proposals should be sent to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that papers can be presented in either French or English.
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