Poverty, Pauperism and Homelessness

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In this genealogical case study of homelessness, I will trace how marginalized subject positions, analogous to homelessness, have been produced and justified by different social formations. Hereby, I hope to show how the existence of marginalized subject positions such as homelessness is the consequence of a social formation’s unwillingness to support some of its members, whom are for one reason or another excluded from (full) participation. I will detail three different social arrangements, governed by three systems of thought (epistemes). The first episteme is the ‘pastoral’ episteme. This episteme is characterized by a religious and communal orientation towards social life. The second episteme is the ‘moral’ episteme. Here religion functions in a more disciplinary fashion, so as to control and transform the poor, a process that coincides with the rise of society, the public realm and the nation state. The third episteme is the ‘material’ episteme. Here poverty is increasingly considered to be a societal problem that implicates the whole of society. Materially productive demands are increasingly made on the subject that ensure the betterment and improvement of all of society, inclusive of the marginalized subject itself. At the end of this analysis, I will reflect on the relevance of this case study for our present situation. Here, I will argue that social policy emphasizing the self-sufficiency of people, in the face of growing inequality, threatens to push an increasing number of people into marginality.
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