Trends in Social Work, 1874-1956: A History Based on the Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work

By Frank J. Bruno | Go to book overview

10 CHARITY BECOMES ORGANIZED

THE CHARITY organization movement is still the most successful answer to the frustration suffered by men and women of good will in urban communities when they attempt to exercise the immemorial heritage of sharing with their less fortunate fellow men, and find that it is not practical. They can share their goods and their time, but their efforts seem valueless, if not worse; not only is the total amount of need not lightened, but it even seems to increase. When first experienced, this frustration was not fully analyzed; the actual explanation resorted to was that giving to the poor made them paupers, unwilling to accept employment if by begging they could exist without toil. This is an instance of the post hoc fallacy against which Wines had cautioned. The poor did sink into pauperism, but it has scarcely been demonstrated that the receipt of alms caused them to do so!

The universal sentiment of mutual aid among thoughtful individuals was exercised successfully in early and simple societies, and it was probably one of the strong cohesive factors that made societies out of groups. That tradition grew up among those who knew each other well, and its exercise was controlled by such knowledge. When people were thrown together in the anonymous relationship of the urban community, those safeguards of mutual aid were absent; the giver did not know the receiver, and the receiver did not know the giver. The grantor became suspicious of the statements of the suppliant, who, in turn, was forced to "learn the arts of beggary" in order

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