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Fattigvård och folkuppfostran: liberal fattigvårdspolitik 1903-1918
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies.
1997 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Poor relief and moral education : Liberal poor relief policies in Sweden, 1903-1918 (English)
Abstract [en]

The present study treats liberal poor relief policy in Sweden between 1903 and 1918. In using institutionalist theory and Yvonne Hirdman's gender theory, along with qualitative analysis, the author interprets the motives of the actors, distilling from them both the values, attitudes and norms they themselves represented, and those they wished to communicate to the poverty-stricken through poor relief.

This study shows that the liberal reformers, with the liberal, "help-to-self-help" idea as their basic ideological foundation, wanted to shape poor relief institutions so that those who came into contact with poor relief authorities would be taught to assume responsibility for their own lives. Poor relief was intended to develop the individual's will and ability to support him/herself and his/her family. Maintenance obligation was a central element here; those who neglected this obligation were therefore apprehended as criminals, and toughened regulations for neglecting the maintenance obligation were introduced into the poor relief law of 1918.

Poor relief was also to be formed so that it would have a deterrent effect. Unchecked charity would be counteracted and the individual prevented from becoming dependent upon receiving welfare. This would be effected through preventive measures for the conscienious recipients, and moral education for the unruly ones.

In order that the right measures be taken in each individual case, the liberal reformers advocated an individualized system of poor relief whereby poor people were judged to be either "worthy" or "unworthy", according to a moral yardstick. However, in the legislation it is apparent that the male is considered to be the norm, since it was the inability to secure gainful employment that gave one the right to receive poor relief. This employment criterion disregarded the fact that it was most often the husband who was the family provider, while the wife most often worked in the household. The poor housewife was made invisible and thus found herself relegated to a no-man's land somewhere in between the "worthy" and "unworthy" poor.

The female reformers, warders and the poor women themselves lived within the confines of a gender system where the man represented the norm. However, there existed sub-systems side-by-side and on different levels of society, with class differences acting as the watershed. The progressive middle- and upper-class women and the female warders lived in a system of separation of the male and female spheres which allowed them to take the step out into the public arena — within certain boundaries — while the poor women lived in a system constructed with men foremost in mind.

In conclusion, one may say that moral education was a type of social engineering intended to realize a liberal social Utopia, where all individuals would have the will and the ability to support themselves.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Carlsson , 1997. , 226 p.
Keyword [en]
Liberal, poor relief moral education, reform, maintenance obligation, self-help, "worthy", "unworthy", gender system
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified History Educational Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-65885ISBN: 91-7203-183-2OAI: diva2:606440
Public defence
1997-06-06, Humanisthuset, hörsal E, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2013-02-19 Created: 2013-02-12 Last updated: 2013-02-19Bibliographically approved

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