How respectable is respectability policy

Hartz IV

Jens Wietschorke

To person

is Academic Councilor at the Institute for Empirical Cultural Studies and European Ethnology at LMU Munich and is currently working as a Heisenberg fellow of the German Research Foundation at the Institute for European Ethnology at the University of Vienna. [email protected]

It cannot go on like this with the welfare state. That was the tenor of a committee of experts that the then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder convened in 2002 and which in the following years worked on fundamental reforms of the labor market under the direction of VW Personnel Director Peter Hartz. The restructuring of welfare state support services in Germany, known under the keyword "Hartz IV", is one of the latest episodes in a long history that revolves around the question of how poverty and material need should be dealt with in society - and who is responsible for it and in what way is. Anyone who delves into this story encounters a recurring demarcation that can be described as a leitmotif of state social policy, but also of social debates about poverty and the "lower class" since the 18th century: the distinction between "indebted" and "not indebted" Poverty and the distinction derived from it between "worthy of support" and "unworthy" poor, the deserving poor and the undeserving poor[1] In this article, the functional principles of this dichotomous view of poverty are traced back to the late Enlightenment on the basis of selected historical stations and an attempt is made to reconstruct in a nutshell how it shaped the discourse about lower social classes at different times. [2] The considerations relate primarily to Germany, but also repeatedly touch on international developments.

The historical review makes it clear: the differentiation of the socially weak population into those who deserve public support and those who have not earned it has just as little to do with social structural features as with an analysis of the contextual conditions in which that individuals need to set up. It is essentially a moral distinction. Whether one slips into the poverty zone or not is therefore a question of honesty or dishonesty, of diligence or laziness, of discipline or indulgence. In a second step, the undeserving poor then assumes certain cultural dispositions: the tendency to insubordination and neglect, to waste and senseless consumption, to bad food and bad television. In the course of the German "lower class debates" in the 2000s, such attributions were sometimes heatedly discussed; we shall come back to this later. First, however, a few highlights will be thrown on the history of perception of the lower classes, on the moralization and exclusion of poverty and unemployment, as can be found in authors of the German Late Enlightenment as well as in Karl Marx, in 19th century British social research as well as in German ones Social reform movements around 1900.

The people and the mob

In order to trace the distinction between a "good" and a "bad" subclass historically, one can go back to the Middle Ages or even to antiquity. At least one should start in the 18th century, when a "discovery of the people" in philosophy and literature can be observed. [3] At that time, authors such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Gottfried Herder celebrated the naturalness and unsophisticated nature of the "simple people". They did not mean the entirety of the lower bourgeois classes, but an idealized collective that was compatible with their ideas of originality and tradition. "Folk poetry" became a key concept of the German Late Enlightenment and then of Romanticism. According to Herder's idea, the folk song reflected the needs and needs of the common people, albeit only up to a certain limit: "The people are not called the mob from the streets: they never sing or write poetry, they scream and mutilate." [4] From the elitist distance of the intellectual, friends of the people like Herder determined who belonged to the people and who did not. This "people" was constructed in the field of literature and poetics, it comprised the farming families and perhaps also the day laborers who - for example in the collections of the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm - served as guarantors of authenticity of old stories and fairy tales, but not those who became impoverished Homeworkers, the wandering traders and the inmates of the poor houses. The folk poetry concept thus made its own contribution to the moralization of the lower classes by distinguishing a "pure" and "real" part of the population at risk of poverty from another who was not culturally capable, who did not sing and poetry, but "screamed" and mutilated ". To put it bluntly: the romantic-nostalgic enthusiasm for the common people could only be established at the price of disqualifying the "rabble" and its raw forms of expression.

As the literary scholar Michael Gamper has pointed out, the dichotomous view of the lower classes also served during the French Revolution to constitute a democratic collective without having to involve the poor population in the formation of political opinions: "In particular, the commentaries on the Paris events It is clear that the philosophical and legislative efforts of the 18th century, which wanted the population to participate in forms of exercise of power, implied a discursive division of the population: a voting and electoral population had to be conceived, but its political legitimacy the elimination of the unreliable elements, the 'rabble', etc. 'Good people' vs. 'bad rabble' became a fundamental dualism of revolutionary reporting, which drastically showed an immanent problematic of the Enlightenment theory of the state. "[ 5] Here it becomes clear that the Definiti on of the "people" always had democratic-theoretical implications. And so the history of democracy up to the introduction of universal and equal suffrage for men and women is at the same time a history of different variants of inclusion and exclusion: Who is excluded from the concept of the "people" - and on what grounds?

The "people" and the "rabble": This contrast dominated the public discourse on the lower classes in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Old patterns continued to have an effect: Although the poor welfare of the church generally regarded the poor as a natural part of a God-given corporate social order, since the late Middle Ages they have made a distinction between "worthy" and "unworthy" poor. [6] In the course of industrialization, state social policy adopted this differentiation and separated "innocent" from "indebted" poverty. The central criterion of this differentiation was wage labor, which formed the reference system for poor policy. [7] Modeled in part on the Poor Law Amendment Act passed in England in 1834, on which the categories deserving poor and undeserving poor decline, new welfare and welfare systems have been installed in almost all German states, and benefits for those "in debt" in need have been linked to hard work in workhouses. The main aim of these reforms was to lower the skyrocketing cost of public welfare - but above all, they produced an image of the poor who were responsible for their own situation. Increasingly, poverty was now the result of personal misconduct. To be poor essentially meant not doing any wage labor, which was associated with the attribution of social and moral deficits. A border line ran right through the lower social classes, which differentiated "respectable" and "non-respectable" existences from one another. The historian Geoffrey Best wrote in relation to the English poor welfare of the 19th century: "Here was the sharpest of all lines of social division, between those who were and those who were not respectable; a sharper line by far than that between rich and poor, employer and employee, or capitalist and proletarian. "[8]