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Title: Ervaring aan de grens. Hedendaagse armoedebestrijding in Vlaanderen
Authors: Suijs, Stijn
Issue Date: 25-Sep-2012
Abstract: The Flemish 2003 decree on the struggle against poverty installs two specific methods as its pillars. The use of individual experiences of the poor is central to both the ‘organizations where the poor raise their voice’ as to the method of ‘experts by experience in poverty and social exclusion’. The experience of the poor is used to incite awareness about the specific perspective of the poor, but is as well used as a tool for empowering the poor themselves. The motive for this study is doubt about this mobilization of experience. What is at stake is to suspend the use of term as taken for granted. The purpose is to examine the functioning of the concept and the related rationality and technology on the level of subject formation. The work of Michel Foucault offered tools to explore this uneasiness, not as a clear methodology, but as an attitude of research, an ethos which also inspired the so called governmentality studies. Chapter 1 explores the different notions of'experience' in Foucault within the chronology of his work. The ‘historical experience’ refers to the (collective) ‘experience of our time’ that functions as an a priori for our thoughts and actions, an a priori however that is contingent. It is an historical experience as it refers to an experience related to a specific time and place. In the ‘limit experience’ we temporarily cross the limits of our historical experience, although at the same time we confirm the existence of these limits. In his later work Foucault seems however to assume that we can shift our limits (partially): to alienate us from what is familiar to us, we create the possibility for a new space or thinking and acting. Chapter 2 presents excerpts from a history of the present . Our contemporary experience is filled with echoes from the past, but the emphasis is on discontinuity with experience of poverty as a desirable ideal (antiquity) or as a religious experience (early Middle Ages), poverty with the dual nature of resource for the economy and a threat to the existing order (Early Modern time), and poverty as a moral and social problem (19th century). Chapter 2 is an exercise in distance. Chapters 3 and 4, the core of this study, on the contrary a cartography is presented of the horizon that constitutes our contemporary experience of poverty. The two chapters present the way we talk about poverty nowadays and how we relate to it as both effect and instrument of the regime that occurs in the assemblage of rationalities and technologies in the struggle against poverty. In parallel, a continuous stream is presented of quotations from policy papers, scientific, methodological or popularizing work or from the media. They illustrate the overwhelming consensus on the participatory turn in the structural strategy of the struggle against poverty (“Not for the poor, but with the poor”)(Chapter 3) and the emphasis on empowerment and the psychological effects of poverty in dealing with the poor themselves (Chapter 4).This experiment allows in Chapter 5 to elaborate the initial discomfort against the background of a sketch of the governmentality regime of advanced liberalism. ‘Poverty’ nowadays refers not any more to the social structures (of inequality) but to the continuing problem of non-participation in the economic process. The study shows how poverty is becoming a psychosocial problem with an increasing focus on the ‘inside’ of poverty. The struggle against poverty is reduced to provide the conditions under which the poor themselves can engage in an eminently individualizing process to turn their experience of vulnerability into psychological capital. The educational relationship to the poor takes the form of ‘activating abstinence’ in order to fully support the personal struggle against poverty which mobilize the poor to subjectify themselves as enterprising selves. Our experience today is a historical experience. Therefore, it can also be different. The work concludes with a cautious attempt of little shifts at the limits of our contemporary collective experience.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Education and Society
Education, Culture and Society

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