Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Deconstruction of Charity. Postmodern Ethical Approaches

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Deconstruction of Charity. Postmodern Ethical Approaches

Article excerpt

Abstract: Charity, as a social construct, is considered in various interpretative contexts, in a subjectively manner, social progress. The meta-narration about charity as Christian duty, by passing through the secular interpretive and atomizer context of postmodernity, becomes a narrative about social responsibility and equity in ethical dimension, and is translated into restorative community practices in social action plan.

We will pursue the constructive interpretive contexts that generated the idea of social policies and social work practice as a contemporary deconstruction of charity.

The thesis of the article is that the process of deconstruction of charity, as a religious value which regulates in a Christian manner the reference to the other, is the foundation of restorative social policies and professionalized social work as a social action. We will analyze the deconstruction of Christian idea of charity from two perspectives, namely the secularization of charitable practices and constructive foundation of a particular meta-story of our times which we call secular society and/or knowledge society.

Key Words: charity, deconstruction, social construct, social policies, community practices, ethical justification, secularization, Christian ethics

Introduction

The postmodern perspective aims to the deconstruction of the great meta-narratives1 that have shaped the progress of mankind, starting with faith in the immutable essence of the world and of things, continuing with the Enlightenment and the Romantic myth of history as continuous progress, through the Marxist vision of the emancipation of the oppressed and building an egalitarian society without social classes, etc. Meta- narratives are legitimate structures that allow the direction of the game as a form of power2.

In this paper we propose to address from a postmodern perspective the concept of charity and its deconstruction at the level of social practices seen as instruments of power.

The thesis of the article is that the process of deconstruction of charity, as a religious value which regulates in a Christian manner the reference to the other, is the foundation of restorative social policies and professionalized social work as a social action.

We will follow the deconstruction of charity by showing the hermeneutic codes that allow the understanding of social policies including providential social state in Foucault terms of establishing instances of ethical sense.

We argue that the deconstruction method can be applied by analyzing the instances of social construction of a social symbolic phenomenon.

Charity as a meta-narration

Deconstruction operates, according to Lyotard3 and Foucault4, at the level of the meta-story; the deconstructive instance is represented by the language games. We will understand deconstruction in an anti-essentialist manner as an abandoning of totalizing thinking in a constructivist manner5 that favors the analysis of interpretative conventions which establish themselves at the level of various interpretative communities and establish the sense of social construct. Social construction is a fact of language that once established takes the role of a particular meta-story for the discussed fact or social institution.

The deconstruction follows therefore the identification of interpretative instances generative of the social construct on the one hand, and variations of meanings for a social construct, across different stories, on the other hand. We will not argue therefore the waiving of the meta-story but we will deny its intrinsic essence.

We will not adhere in a universalist approach to the Enlightenment myth of social progress, but will follow the transformations of a social construct - that of charity - in different interpretive contexts, which once constituted, is subjectively interpreted by the community as social progress.

Quitting universality is, in our opinion, the result of universalizing the contextual. …

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