Towards a Genealogy of Poverty in Latin America
1. This dissertation explores the apparently known object of our thought that is called poverty. To do so, it attempts an analysis that begins by noting that poverty has a past, which is not history, and constitutes destitution in specific ways. More precisely, my dissertation consists of fathoming what poverty might be by identifying those elements that, at a specific moment in our history, articulated the emergence of a problematization that continues to make its presence felt today. My goal is to pinpoint and describe those specific elements that have become conditions of possibility for a problematization of poverty which, although historically contingent, has shaped our way of thinking upon and acting against poverty. In order to carry out such a task, I have used specific conceptual tools inherited from the philosophy of Michel Foucault. 2. This dissertation contends that when the police of the poor began to be established in the second half of the Spanish and American eighteenth century the emergence of a new problematization of poverty began to crystallize. This problematization implied a discontinuity regarding the knowledge encompassed in the doctrine of charity, which nevertheless bequeathed to it some essential parts. The emergence of a police problematization supposed the emergence of governmental knowledge and the slow fading away of the problematization organized around charity. Curiously, this problematization will be constituted both in opposition to and also in articulation with the Christian doctrine of charity. 3. Chapter two of this dissertation will be devoted to the doctrine of charity as it existed at the beginning of the Spanish eighteenth century. The chapter does not affirm that such Spanish-American variations of charity were particularly novel. Yet it is important to trace its forgotten truth and organize, albeit briefly, its governmental knowledge. In doing so, it will be possible for us to not only understand better the problematization of poverty that charity generated at the beginning of the eighteenth century in both Spain and América, but also the subsequent appropriation of charity by the enlightened science of the police. At the beginning of the eighteenth century in Spain and América, Catholic charity was a regime of truth whose validity concerning poverty had no serious rivals in either the Iberian Peninsula or on American soil. Charitable governmentality articulated a problematization of poverty revolving around the threat to physical life caused by material needs, the suffering provoked by pain, the hate that inclined towards revenge, and the correction of one who has fallen into sin. A distinctive type of government will be needed to tackle each one of these issues. Thus, the regime of truth of charity will be articulated by a government of material needs and the excess of goods through the exercise of almsgiving, a government of pain through the exercise of tribulation, a government of hate through the exercise of loving your enemy, and a government of correction through the exercise of fraternal correction. Almsgiving was the charitable way of governing how to deal with material needs and excess and was organized around the precept of not killing one’s neighbor. However, almsgiving was not just a precept. Its purpose was to make the subject become entirely Christian by giving life to his faith. Thus, the giver became a charitable steward who united himself with God, with the neighbor and with himself in the act of giving. Alms initially forged this threefold unification. Charity was thus a vital regime of truth which carried on its shoulders the truth of the believer, the life of the community, and the divine government of the world. 4. In the middle of the century identified with the Enlightenment, the age-old concern about poverty found a new moment of inquietude both in Spain and in Spanish America. Within the limits marked by the thought contained in Bernardo Ward’s Obra Pía (Pious Work) (1750) and the laws on the police of the poor that established the Diputaciones de Caridad (Charity Councils) (1778), destitution emerged as a State affair that the science of the police was in charge of solving. Chapter three is devoted to the forgotten science called the science of the police. The science of the police during the Enlightenment was a body of knowledge about how to know and govern the interior of the State, including the vassals. Like all of the arts of governing, the science of the police was teleological, and happiness was its end goal. The mandate of the science of the police was to increase the forces of the interior of the State, and to do so it must first identify those forces and learn about them in order to eventually multiply them. Such identification not only refers to which of the activities were to be preferred, but also concerns the objects from which riches are gained—namely, land, merchandise, and vassals. Among these three elements, the vassals stand out as the police's privileged object of the science of the police. The wealth—and therefore the international position of the State—depends, finally, on the vassals being productive forces. Thereby a permanent attempt to conserve and increase not only the number but also the usefulness of those subjects was made in order to strengthen the State. These attempts to conserve and augment the members of the State will be part of a thesis that we could call populationist. Poverty constituted an extraordinary threat for the science of the police because destitution undermined those factors that are considered necessary to make the population grow. Significantly, the poverty considered by the science of the police poses an urgency that is not exactly the same as that conceived by charity. Destitution was a problem of the conservation of the vassals and cast the State as the giver who must address this problem. Thus, the poverty characterized by the science of the police was seen primarily as a problem for the sovereign. Destitution, and with it also the poor, become an affair of the Enlightenment State. 5. After analyzing the science of the police, we might be inclined to explain the deployment of the police of the poor as a consequence of the science of the police that left behind—finally!—the charitable alethurgy used to comprehend the poor. However, charity was called again at the moment when the police writers and statesmen began to fashion a new way to think about and govern the needy—namely, once they had to shape and deploy one specific police for the poor. Chapter four will explore the peculiar relationship of these two dissimilar bodies of knowledge in the Enlightenment device called the police of the poor. The police problematization of poverty was modeled on some charitable questions, namely: Who are the faces of poverty? Should we give to them? What ought we to give? These questions will be an opening to think about poverty in the Enlightenment. To govern the poor in the truth, nevertheless, the police of the poor will answer these questions by accepting the police’s imperative to produce and circulate wealth in order to constitute a happy State. Despite the diversity of deficiencies of the poor, the vicious idleness that defines or surrounds the poor's material needs is the most pressing urgency for the police of the poor. The perils of idleness made it imperative to lead the poor towards active productivity. Thus, the police poor was constituted by the duality represented by material necessity on the one hand and inactivity—whether viciously voluntary or dangerously forced—on the other. The sovereign is on his way to becoming a king not only of justice and peace, but also of charity that assumes, as the central element of his sovereign figure, that the king should love the poor with the love of a father. Thus, the pious king who gives police alms begins to assume and to incorporate the duty of giving alms as a function of the State. The police of the poor found in alms a method of support. Almsgiving provided a well-known and mandatory way through which each vassal could contribute to sustain the poor of the State. In fact, the obligatory nature of alms seems to have made the idea of taxes that would support this public policy unnecessary. Also, almsgiving referred to a long and well-established truth: that in the act of giving you can spiritually transform the recipient. The police alms accept—with an easiness that never ceases to astonish—the possibility of delivering spiritual alms to the poor within the State under the sovereign's auspices. Even more surprising is that one of the primary ambitions of charitable giving is also a pillar in this police re-elaboration of alms—namely, the constitution of a subject through the act of giving. 6. The difficult position of charity since the middle of the eighteenth century—that is, the dispute that this dissertation will explore concerning some of its elements—puts us on the path of what Foucault called a "reflexive moment" (Foucault, OS, 242). This is a point in which the thinkers of the Enlightenment began to reflect on the truth from which they had to understand and govern poverty. The enlightened vassals lost the familiarity they used to have concerning a charitable way of governing the material necessity of the political association; they subjected charity to criticism; and, finally, they elaborated a governmental truth, which I have called police-charity truth, to govern the poor of the State in order to alleviate destitution. The police of the poor is the expression of this moment—or maybe its articulation. With the police of the poor, the enlightened subjects intervened in the politics of their time, generating—almost paradoxically—a transformation of charity and its continuity. Such an intervention was neither announced in the charitable alethurgy nor prefigured in the science of the police. It was instead an invention that articulated some of the concepts present in both bodies of knowledge, and in doing so crystallized a truth about poverty and the poor, as well as establishing a way of governing the needy towards happiness. The Enlightenment governmental knowledge on poverty was forged at its intersection with religious charity. Such a realization puts us on the path to a conclusion by Foucault, to which James Bernauer s.j. was one of the first people to call our attention. Namely, that western modernity, instead of being characterized by its dechristianization, is sometimes modeled by processes of "Christianization-in-depth."