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Violences juvéniles sous expertise(s) / Expertise and Juvenile Violence

 | 
Aurore François
, 
Veerle Massin
, 
David Niget

Revising Reform: a Cultural History of Juvenile Justice Reform in the United States

Erik Paul Reavely

Texte intégral

  • 1 Laura S. Abrams, Laura Curran, “Wayward Girls and Virtuous Women: Social Workers and Female Juveni (...)

1The “child saving” movement of the late 19th century has been largely credited with the political and moral impetus for the first distinctly “juvenile” courts in Chicago, which were established in 1899 and became the model by which juvenile justice systems across the United States were based. Through the work of Jane Addams and her Settlement House colleagues, the birth of these new structures for governing juvenile delinquency, such as the Juvenile Protective Association, were also indelibly linked to the emergence of social work as a profession and the institutionalization of social welfare as a function of the state1. Social workers were present in the courtroom, the home, and the national debates about how delinquent youth, their families, and the whole of society should be governed according to discourses of “reform” and “civilization”. This chapter examines the emergence and context of the cultural narratives and techniques by which social workers legitimized their expertise concerning juvenile delinquency, and social welfare in general. In doing so I look to both the social contradictions and cultural struggles of these social workers in an attempt to trace the structural tensions in which the discourse of reform and the technological development of the written case-method were situated.

  • 2 Anthony M. Platt, “The Child Saving Movement and the Origins of the Juvenile Justice System”, in P (...)
  • 3 Anthony M. Platt, The child savers: the invention of delinquency, Second Ed., London & Chicago, Un (...)
  • 4 June Nash, “Labor Struggles: Gender, Ethnicity, and the New Migration”, in Ida Susser, Thomas C. P (...)
  • 5 Murray Levine, Adeline Levine, Helping Children: A Social History, New York & Oxford, Oxford Unive (...)
  • 6 Nash, “Labor Struggles…”.

2Many historical accounts narrate the origin and development of the U.S. juvenile justice system as a story of progressive, benevolent and humanitarian legislative reform – the so called “Reform Movement” of the “Progressive Era” (1890-1920) – which included (but was not limited to) the enactment of child-labor laws, the establishment of separate legal systems for juvenile delinquents, and the rationalization of expertise related to the social governance of young people2. However, beginning with Platt3, many social histories of the child-savers (and the Reform Movement in general) have also been written in an attempt to document the way the movement contributed to a social order characterized by deep and myriad social inequalities. For example, in the latter half of the 19th century several waves of immigration consisting of largely displaced and starving rural European peasants were crowded into ghettos in major U.S. cities by policy makers who considered these immigrants “dangerous” and “unwashed masses”4. From 1846 to 1855, 1.3 million Irish famine refugees entered the U.S., and between 1880 and 1895 nearly 3 million more mainly Eastern European and Jewish peasants followed5. The desperate poverty of these millions enabled their availability as a standing reserve army of inexpensive labor that fueled a rapid expansion of industrial growth and class inequality6. Platt argues that as a reaction to unbridled laissez-faire capitalism laborers’ increasingly rioted and unionized against worsening working and living conditions and that, in response, the middle and owning classes produced myriad and often contradictory ideological counter-movements to explain and guard their privileged status in the existing social order.

  • 7 Hugh Cunningham, Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500, London, Longman, 1995, p. 1 (...)
  • 8 Laura S. Abrams, Laura Curran, “Wayward Girls and Virtuous Women: Social Workers and Female Juveni (...)

3According to the “social control hypothesis”, the child saving movement consisted largely of middle-class and elite Anglophone women and men that “were not utopians or revolutionaries [but] worked with the grain of the economic, social and political structures of their times7”. Indeed, studies of the cases brought before the Chicago juvenile courts from 1899 to 1909 reveal that more than 72 percent of the young defendants were identified as “foreign born” Irish, Polish, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and Jewish immigrants8, revealing the disproportionate ethnic and class distribution of the emerging institution’s demography.

  • 9 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. xx.
  • 10 Platt, “The Child Saving Movement…”.

4The central argument of Platt’s social history of the juvenile courts is that “The child-saving movement was not a humanistic enterprise on behalf of the working class against the established order. On the contrary, its impetus came primarily from the middle and upper classes who were instrumental in devising new forms of social control to protect their power and privilege9”. Platt also critiqued the way that the history of the child-saving movement is often told in a “gradualist” narrative; as modernity’s triumph of knowledge and professional expertise over “folk” knowledge, the brutality of child labor, and disciplinary abuse10. To accept such histories at face-value, Platt suggested, is to take for granted the way in which these reformers described themselves without taking into account the social context from which such narratives of the self-in-history are told. To accept the narratives of the reform and progressive eras as history rather than as historical would overlook the social contradictions of these narratives, in their time and ours.

  • 11 Cf. William A. Muraskin, “The Social Control Theory in American History: A Critique”, in Journal o (...)
  • 12 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 4.

5In later editions of The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency, first published in 1969, Platt admits to criticisms11that the “social-control hypothesis” which he employed in the text, while pointing to the uneven social effects of the child-savers work, has at least several shortcomings. Primarily, the argument fails to accomplish his own goal of locating “the social basis of humanitarian ideals and to reconcile the intentions of the child savers with the institutions that they helped to create12”. To hear the problem in his own words:

  • 13 Ibid., p. xviii.

the child savers helped to create a system that subjected more and more juveniles to arbitrary and degrading punishments. But why did this happen? Was it simply the result of good intentions gone wrong, or excessive idealism and naiveté, or even a well-orchestrated conspiracy among the child savers? This level of explanation, implicitly supported in this book, is reductionist because it underestimates the significance of structural conditions and depends too much on a subjective critique of the child savers motivation and professional ambitions. By placing the child-saving movement in the context of the political economy of Progressivism, its failures can be understood in a new light13.

  • 14 Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977.

6However, I would propose that by describing the resulting social inequalities of the movement as “failures”, there is an ongoing misunderstanding of the relationship between the reform movement discourse and the structures of inequality it (re)produced. This essay takes a “practice14” approach toward historical revision to consider the way that expertise is not simply a didactic field of knowledge and skill imposed from above, but the product of multidimensional cultural struggles; struggles over meaning enacted and shaped in contentious relations of social status and power. By reckoning the cultural basis of reformers’ ideals with the social history of their production and use, I hope to cast new light on the relationship between ideas, actions, and outcomes overlooked by the social control hypothesis. Rather than discounting the claims of reformers as propaganda because their ideals and policies reproduced and participated in capitalist social divisions, I will situate the progressive discourse of liberal reformers, the emergence of their techniques of professional expertise, and the reproduction of an unequal expert/client relationship, in the context of struggles about the nature of cultural difference and social inequality.

  • 15 Sources for this “cultural revision” were drawn from a series of literature searches using the Web (...)

7To do so, I return to the experience of Victorian reformers as they passed from the privileged life of the countryside to the urban ghetto, bringing with them visions of consumption, labor, leisure, gender, age-status and the moral family. Returning to Platt’s call to situate the child-savers in the “structural conditions” of progressivism, I revisit how women juvenile and social workers of the Reform Movement struggled against, utilized, and reshaped gender expectations and public identity, notions of charity, welfare, and skill, as well as the relationship between citizen, market, and state. Rather than attempting a comprehensive review of social histories of U.S. juvenile justice reform, I revisit the readily available material within Platt’s and other’s social histories of the Reform Movement to highlight the significance of culture in the shaping the constraints, possibilities and ongoing struggles about the causes of juvenile delinquency as well as who, how and to what extent delinquency should be engaged15. A primary objective of this chapter will be to illustrate how notions of class and moral living, gender and professional expertise, achievement and reform, all intersected in struggles about the meaning of history in terms of “civilization” – a “world-view” cultural concept that framed perceptions of self, other and society in relation to a theory of historical change.

  • 16 Natan Sznaider, “Compassion and Control: Children in Civil Society”, in Childhood, 4 (2), 1997, p. (...)
  • 17 Sznaider, “Compassion and Control…”, p. 226-227.
  • 18 Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners, New York, Urizen Books, 1978.

8In his examination of the origins of public compassion toward children, Sznaider identified the link between discourses of reform and civilization, which he locates in the origin of the middle-class family against the dominant rule of aristocratic inheritance in eighteenth century Europe16. According to this argument “the struggle of the middle classes against the aristocracy, based in its predominance on birth and tradition, led middle class thinkers to the question of ‘man per se’ or ‘human nature’. Small children were seen as ‘blank-slates’…educatable [sic] and capable of learning moral understanding17”. This argument points to the multidimensional character of the origins of notions of human change that were the basis of reform narratives, but does not extend that observation to the social structures that were at stake in the struggles of the Reform Movement, nor does it locate the social basis of Progressive Era advocacy for compassion and reform in 19th century, capitalist, United States where the rule of feudal aristocracy was a distant concern. And while Platt pointed to the struggle of 19th century progressivists against proponents of social-Darwinism, he reduced this – through the social control hypothesis – to the preservation of professional self-interests and class privilege. While the arguments of Platt and Sznaider are not to be discounted, they propose distant, if not limited responses to the question of the social basis of benevolent ideals of Reform Movement discourse. I propose that while the discourse of civilization provided the ideological grounds for rationalizing, acting on, and reproducing a range of inequalities (by ethnicity, gender, social class, and, not least of all, age) it also provided the basis for notions of individual and social change, social mobility, and transformed status – reform. However, I also extend the multidimensional perspective Sznaider drew from the work of Elias18 and situate the ideals and struggles of Progressive Era social reformers in the context of contending arguments, bolstered by the emerging discipline of physical anthropology, for a social order defined by ethnocentrically ranked categories of inherited racial characteristics. I propose that the narrative of reform was more than elitist rhetoric, but was also a key aspect of a discourse that ran counter to those imagining fixed social worlds, the “caste-like” cosmologies of the social landscape that have buttressed draconian policies of eugenics, segregation, anti-immigration, and zero tolerance, at various times and places – including our own.

1. The Cultural Politics of Poverty & Child Saving

  • 19 Platt, The Child Savers

9Child Savers such as Charles Loring Brace, Jane Addams and Louise de Koven Bowen were central and typical figures in the child-saving and settlement-house movements established in the immigrant slums of Chicago. Each came from affluent, privileged upbringings in politically powerful and land-owning families19. In tune with many of the intellectual criticisms of modern industrial society that gave rise to movements as diverse as temperance, labor and prison reforms, settlement houses and eugenics, child-savers experienced the urban social landscape as human degeneration. The city signified a contaminating influence on the Victorian-supposed purity and innocence of childhood, Christian morality, and social progress. Founder of the Children’s Aid Society Charles Loring Brace summarized these fears, claiming that:

  • 20 Brace quoted in Platt, “The Child Saving Movement…”, p. 8.

As Christian men, we cannot look upon this great multitude of unhappy, deserted, and degraded boys and girls without feeling our responsibility to God for them. The class increases: immigration is pouring in its multitudes of poor foreigners who leave these young outcasts everywhere in our midst. These boys and girls […] will soon form the great lower class of our city. They will influence elections; they may shape the policy of the city; they will assuredly, if unreclaimed, poison society all around them. They will help to form the great multitude of robbers, thieves, and vagrants20.

  • 21 Cunningham, Children and Childhood…, p. 87-89.

10In the ethnic, urban, industrial ghettos of the 19th century most childhood “recreation” took place in the street, and child labor may have been as much a family survival-tactic as it was an exploitive and conscious strategy of the owning classes21. As many of these protestant reformers moved from the affluent countryside, where the privilege of a protracted and recreational childhood was imagined as a universal norm, and witnessed the life-conditions of the exploited laboring immigrants of the city, reformers like Addams and Brace experienced a moral geography of cultural difference that incited the way they engaged the urban poor.

  • 22 Sznaider, “Compassion and Control…”.

11Brace and his Children’s Aid Society adopted the “friendly visitor” and “placing-out” system as a way of investigating the home-life of poor urban families and removing children to homes of the “respectable classes” in the moral geography of the countryside. Between 1853 and the mid 1890’s as many as 90,000 children were placed in rural homes where they were to work and learn Christian, middle-class habits22. Many of the children were sent to the western U.S. where expansion and agricultural settlement had left farming families short on labor:

  • 23 Charles Loring Brace in Sznaider, “Compassion and Control…”, p. 229.

The words of our visitors in their ministrations have given the basis to our influence, which we sought to perfect, by what we regard as the great and special work of the society – the entire changing of the circumstances of the children, by sending them to new homes in the country. It is evident that no human power can save one of these street children, if it is left in its own circumstances. An unhealthy neighborhood, a squalid or a dissolute home, evil companions and vile parents, unite to surround the little one with such an atmosphere of poverty and crime that very few can escape the effects of it23.

  • 24 Levine, Levine, Helping Children…, p. 192.

12Critics of Brace’s “orphan train” claim that his agents aggressively swept children off the streets, put parents in the position of giving up their children by moral obligation, and intentionally placed catholic children with protestant families where they were often renamed as well as converted. Furthermore, critics alleged that “children were sometimes sold into slavery, or that the agents made money unscrupulously on the transactions24”.

  • 25 Bowen in Platt, The Child Savers… p. 92.
  • 26 Addams in Platt, The Child Savers… p. 91.

13Many of the child-savers, like Addams and Bowen, pioneered the settlement house movement in which educated middle-class social reformers and activists lived among the urban poor in order to “serve” them directly with donations, but also with behavioral, hygienic and moral tutelage. With little reflexive attention to the social basis of their own privilege in the disparate class economy that produced the “squalor” and poverty they encountered in the industrial-ghettos, child-savers positioned themselves as responsible for the moral reform of the working classes. Poverty and crime were attributed to the family unit, to individual moral character and to intemperance rather than widespread structures of exploitive economics, European land dispossession, and political disenfranchisement: “It isn’t money nor houses nor lands that make a man, it is character […] the parents are the character builders for the child […] they should see to it that the child as he reaches manhood does not find himself, because of their injustice to him in his youth, shattered in strength and dull in intellect25”. And while settlement house women such as Jane Addams exhorted the poor of the urban slums to abstain from the “wickedness” and ubiquity of “commercialized vices26” offered by urban life, their own privileged participation in the culture of consumption was deployed as a moral example and a model to which one should aspire:

  • 27 Bowen in Platt, The Child Savers… p. 88.

The women wanted good clothes, they liked to see me dressed smartly, they liked to see me drive up in a motorcar and to see it standing in front of the club house on Polk Street. They would say, “We saw your name in the paper as being at the opera […]. It’s a pleasure to know we have for a president a lady who goes so much into society”27.

  • 28 Joseph R. Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement, Urbana (...)

14Much like the temperance movement, from which the child-saving movement shared ranks and ideological ground, the moral politics of Christian piety, disciplined individualism, and middle-class consumption operated as a standard of acculturation in the colonial context of the settlement houses28. Speaking of the expectations held by workers in a North Boston settlement house, William F. Whyte observed that:

  • 29 Cited in Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade…, p. 71.

The social worker’s conception of his functions was quite evident. He thought in terms of a one-way adaptation. Although in relation to the background of the community, the settlement house was an alien institution, nevertheless the community was expected to adapt itself to the standards of the settlement house29.

15Social workers of the settlement house and child saving movement considered themselves the moral superiors of the exploited poor of the industrial slums. By illustrated virtue of their ability to traverse social worlds from slum to opera house, town to country, they presented their habits of conduct not only as worthy of emulation, but as a necessary disposition for moral identity and social mobility. The demonstrated status of the child savers, combined with their self-fashioned image as disinterested, altruistic benefactors of the exploited and demoralized poor, reproduced a tacit understanding of their moral and cultural superiority. Hence, child saving and the settlement house functioned as social and cultural gate-keeping for defining the conditions of class mobility, cultural distinction, and moral identity.

2. The Gendered Political Economy of Professionalism

  • 30 Abrams, Curran, “Wayward Girls…”; Robyn Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform 1890- (...)
  • 31 G. E. Howe in Platt, The Child Savers… p. 80 (original emphasis).

16Platt illustrates that child saving and settlement house movements also occurred as an expression of middle and upper-class women’s increasing demands for suffrage and participation in the public spheres of citizenship and economic status. As the roles and status of these women shifted with increasing education and leisure time, they still found limited career choices in the professional world30. With their connotations of domesticity and benevolent maternal care, child saving and settlement house social-work presented an opportunity not only to assert the virtuous cultural identities of middle-class femininity in relation to the perceived moral degeneration of urban families and their children, but also to take up socially acceptable roles as ‘domestic’ professionals in the public sphere: “Here the way opens to the most ample opportunities for women’s transcendent influence. Here, then, in this system we give the boy to be mothered by giving him a home31”.

  • 32 Abrams, Curran, “Wayward Girls…”, p. 53.
  • 33 Ibid.
  • 34 The first president of the American Psychological Association, Hall coined the term “storm and str (...)
  • 35 Abrams, Curran, “Wayward Girls…”, p. 51.
  • 36 Ibid.

17The public hysteria and criminalization of young and unmarried women’s sexuality as a “moral offense” was symbolic of the culturally informed gender and class relations that shaped the emergent fields of social work and juvenile justice. In the formative years of these occupational fields, middle-class anxiety over the status of women in the modern industrializing city fixated on girls’ sexual activity. The anxiety was so intense in some states “unwilling submission to sexual assault” was a punishable sex offense along with prostitution, illegitimate pregnancy, suspected promiscuity, and curfew violations32. Some 90 percent of female juvenile convictions in the early court system were of such “moral offenses33”. Apprehension about women in the modern world extended beyond sexuality to entail the morality of independence and education for women, creating a direct constraint on any professional aspirations women might have harbored. Respected male public figures like G. Stanley Hall34considered “education a threat to women’s health and well being and labeled unmarried educated women the ‘apotheosis of selfishness’35”. In this historical context, it is not surprising that in order to assert their moral place in public life, women social reformers “adopted a maternalistic stance toward delinquent girls, rooted partially in the Victorian morality of their upbringing and partially in their quest to uphold morality and justice in the industrial age36”.

  • 37 Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion

18A cultural perspective on the political economy of the field of child welfare and juvenile reform reveals the heteronomous and dependant character of the emerging professions, which forced early practitioners to adopt a more inclusive relation with clients and laypersons. As Muncy notes, the clients of the emerging welfare professions could not afford to pay for their services, and in the absence of a welfare state, this effectively tethered the educated, middle-class workers of the settlement houses to wealthy benefactors and political allies37:

  • 38 Muncy’s reference to these workers as “professionals” references their status both as educated and (...)
  • 39 Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion…, p. 20.
  • 40 Ibid., p. 23.

This peculiar position required professionals38 to draw non-professional women [and men] into their work and to convince both client and patron their services were important. Under these circumstances, the female professions could not develop the exclusivity of traditional male professions. They had to be “popularizers” of their professional knowledge39.Addams herself spoke of the settlement house as a place where workers should “translate knowledge in terms of life40”. While the educative role as interpreter and the maternalistic role of caring corresponded with Victorian ideals of domestic womanhood, the free, public dissemination of their knowledge about health, poverty and crime, and particularly, child development, also reduced opportunities to exclusive privileges and entitlements for their profession.

  • 41 Ibid., p. 22.
  • 42 Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion…; Platt, The Child Savers

19The culturally structured position as passive translator was compounded by a narrative of self-sacrifice related to the overlap reform work shared with charitable work: “After all, the true object of the patronage of elite women was to aid the downtrodden – not to subsidize individual careers… these professionals were conduits of charity: their labor was the charitable contribution of one class to another, and this position required an erasure of the self on the part of women defining new careers”41. Hence, while male professional groups, such as doctors, administrators, lawyers, judges and politicians, hierarchically limited and at times denigrated women’s ambitions in these fields (G. Stanley Hall above), these women were also required to adopt self-deprecating roles in a labor process that limited their ability to assume authoritative positions. The performance of such humility was both enforced by the structural conditions of their labor relations but also corresponded with gendered expectations of maternal servility. Ironically, even feminist reformers intent on asserting women’s moral value in the public sphere employed the very same symbolic gender associations of natural domesticity and maternal sacrifice that functioned to restrict their access to suffrage and public, professional life42.

3. The Professionalization of Domestic Governmentality, the Commodification of Care, and the Bifurcation of “the Personal”

  • 43 Bowen in Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 79.

20Child-savers’ claims to the natural moral disposition of women was not intended to close the door to public life, rather, it was to assert the necessity of their participation in public life as agents of public domestication. As Bowen would claim to a meeting of the Friday Club in Chicago: “If, on our charity boards, we had more women who were conversant with the daily lives of the poor, they would be a great asset in the work of relief and construction. If a woman is a good housekeeper in her own home, she will be able to do well that larger housekeeping43”.

21The use of the home as metaphor for the nation performs several rhetorical functions; first it projects dominant middle-class gender expectations from the increasingly circumscribed private sphere of the domestic family to the public sphere of the “national family” and naturalizes women’s place in the public sphere, economically and politically, albeit in the role of “housekeeper” and “mother”. Second it also asserts a domestic governmentality; a claim about the formation and responsibility of the state to promote the social order of domestic middle-class values about hygiene, labor, and consumption – the moral bases of the Protestant nuclear family. For Bowen and Addams, child saving was a matter of state intervention at the level of social hygiene and nationalized moral living:

  • 44 Ibid., p. 92.

What we need in this country […] is good government, and good government means clean alleys and clean streets; it means safety on the streets and in the home; it means health and happiness for the women workers; it means fine schools and wholesome recreation; it means a well-ordered community life that leads to national well-being44.

22These contentions reflect class privileges and expectations of security, cleanliness as a sign of moral living, and childhood recreation as a right, but they also reflect widely circulating discourses about the state and its responsibility to practice class-informed notions of social order. Child-labor laws and separate juvenile courts were not simply a reflection of “moral progress” but a governmental projection of bourgeois divisions of status, discipline, and economy in the home onto the population as a whole. As they became witness to increasingly violent labor strikes and riots, Addams and some more radical Hull House workers in Chicago lead various other campaigns to regulate work hours, safety conditions, and rights to unionize. These efforts to reform the workplace signified cultural values of discipline and restraint of the market through rationalized government, but were also the product of negotiations between the abuses of laissez-faire capitalism and socialist reformers, some of whom worked alongside Addams and Bowen at Hull House.

  • 45 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. xxi.

23Given their concerns that the sons and daughters of the so called “dangerous classes” represented, potentially “influencing elections” and “poisoning society” in their adulthood, middle-class liberals endorsed child-labor laws, separate juvenile courts, compulsory schooling, and the regulation of the economy, as well as corporate capitalists. While corporate elites were as interested in driving out the competition of marginal manufacturers and tenement operators that more often depended on cheap, unskilled child labor, they also endorsed a brand of “liberalism [that] meant ‘the responsibility of all classes to maintain and increase the efficiency of the existing social order’45”. Consolidating market space in industry through labor reforms corresponded with ongoing rationalized specialization and separation of labor from the home, “the private”, and contributed to the diversification of gendered, age-graded, and other “technologically” specified subjects:

  • 46 Lynn Cooper, The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove: an Analysis of the US Police, Berkeley, Center fo (...)

Progressives in business and industry, for example, developed the concepts of “scientific management” that enabled managers to get more efficient performance from workers through such things as time-and-motion studies. Progressives in education developed intelligence testing and other means of “efficiently” channeling young people into appropriate slots in the economy… progressive reformers created elaborate classifications of different kinds of criminals and of the different kinds of “treatment” they required. All these reforms were designed to make these institutions work more smoothly and effectively in an increasingly centralized and tightly-knit economy46.

  • 47 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Talcott Parsons Trans., London & New (...)

24Descending from the moral economy of Adam Smith’s treatises on liberal capitalism, Progressive Era capitalists followed in the notion that the increasing division of labor, production and consumption into more specialized and centrally controlled social units “leads, since it makes the development of skill possible, to a quantitative and qualitative improvement in production, and thus serves the common good47”. Along with the support of progressive allies in industry and local government, child-savers conjured the subject population of juvenile reform work out of their culturally informed understanding of various moral crises (of the broken home, child labor, the wayward girl, and dangerous ethnic immigrants).

  • 48 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 45.
  • 49 Michel Foucault, “Governmentality”, in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, Peter Miller (ed.), The Fouc (...)

25Progressive discourses of the era stressed not only the rationalization of government and markets, but also the rationalization of social life entirely – “a well ordered community life” as Bowen phrased it. Sociologist Charles Cooley was exemplary of this early reform discourse concerning youth: “When an individual actually enters upon a criminal career, let us try to catch him at a tender age, and subject him to rational social discipline48”. The rationalization of the home with the instructive “friendly visitor” the workplace through labor laws and industrial regulation, and of public spaces such as streets and schools in order to affect the emotional and behavioral disposition of an imagined citizenry (of “dangerous classes”) exemplifies what Foucault referred to as liberal “governmentality49”.

  • 50 Colin Gordon, “Governmental Rationality: an Introduction”, in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, Peter (...)
  • 51 Gordon, “Governmental Rationality…”, p. 2.

26Foucault conceptualized governmentality as “the conduct of conduct50”. That is, the conscious and rationalized orchestration of the conduct of others, particularly with reference to categorical populations (deviants, immigrants, etc). Governmentality not only rationalized the relationship between state agents and society, as we might typically think of “government”, but also “the relation between the self and self” as well51. Hence, “social discipline” was realized not only in the way that the conditions of living were rationalized in order to produce “happy” (or obedient) workers and citizens, or to “save” children, but also in the way that citizens of all ranks were expected to subject their own conduct to rationalization for the “common good.”

27The professionalization of work that had long been the domain of alms-giving and charitable philanthropy operated along the increasing division of emotional and rational; personal and professional; private and public. As Lubove observed about the professionalization of philanthropy throughout the Progressive Era, individual public charity was increasingly seen as haphazard and inefficient and in need of rationalizing governance:

  • 52 Roy Lubove, The Professional Altruist: The Emergence of Social Work as a Career 1880-1930, Cambrid (...)

The crusade to elevate philanthropy to scientific status… resulted in the repudiation of spontaneous or sentimental charity and the substitution of the social agency for the benevolent individual as the repository of philanthropic wisdom. The efficiency and effectiveness of the community welfare program required that the impulse of individuals be disciplined, channeled, and filtered through the agency52.

  • 53 Lubove, The Professional Altruist

28Opposing alms for the poor as impulsive, instinctual and disorganized behavior, the settlement house and juvenile court social workers divided and rationalized charity into a labor process of “scientific benevolence53”. Reflecting widespread progressive faith in the practice of “scientific management”, these early social workers applied circulating discourses of scientific efficiency not just to the rationalization of government and labor, but to the whole of social life. Administration, fundraising and lobbying, investigation, research, and treatment activities were subdivided and rationalized as standards of practice were generated to train the needed volunteers and patrons in efficiently servicing the needs of the poor.

  • 54 Ibid., p. 12.

29The focal point of the emerging social and juvenile work apparatus in its early formation was the personal relationship; the “friendly visitor.” Lubove comments that “Efficient charity was [seen as] a process of character regeneration, not social reform, and involved the direct influence of successful, educated, and cultured representatives of the middle-class upon the dependant individual or family54”. This comment overlooks the broader movement that actors within and across programs like the Friendly Visitor were taking part. By taking a broader perspective on these relationships, the “Reform Movement” of the “Progressive Era” is characterized by the rationalization of moral relationships (rather than eradication of them) at the individual and social scale. But rather than map a “progression” of the field “from” charity “to” professionalization through an stepped evolutionary process (a narrative to be scrutinized rather than employed as a theoretical framework), I argue that the rationalization of “friendly visiting” into “social work” as a discipline occurred in “ad-hoc” fashion; with no established discipline upon which the practice was based, and responding to the structural conditions gender, the politics of “skill”, and the perceived degeneration of society, these emergent social workers adopted the practices of other specializations struggling within the dominant popularity of the “scientific management” of human life.

30For example, coinciding with the investigative practices of the friendly visitor, there were other female dominated occupations developing specialized skills in the margins of an already established public institution – the hospital. Medical casework, a practice of written, client documentation and record keeping conducted almost entirely by female nurses, provided the institutionally recognized rationalization of relationships that was adopted by settlement house social workers to claim a place in the growing juvenile court system and gain a foothold toward recognition as a skilled profession.

  • 55 Ibid., p. 23-28.
  • 56 Ibid., p. 34.

31Nurses in the United States first practiced casework for post-discharge and recovery care. Documenting the events of a visit to a patient’s home -in terms of their physical condition and their environment -provided volumes of patient histories that could be examined and abstracted to produce generalized rationalizations of health and illness, as well as corresponding labor processes. In attempting to isolate factors in patients’ environments as causes of patients’ symptoms, the spaces became discursively linked in the practice of not only patient health, but also public health at large55. To legitimize their contribution as systematic and useful in terms of both patient care and administrative interests, social workers affiliating themselves with emerging institutions (such as schools, juvenile and family courts) developed standardized programs of training, techniques of interviewing, observation, documentation, and record keeping borrowed from techniques produced in the hospital56.

  • 57 Burton J. Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism: The Middle Class and the Development of Highe (...)
  • 58 Ibid., p. 75.

32The production of a literary skill was an important symbol of specialized technique. Facility with words themselves were valuable social currency and the growing use of the written word as means of public exchange had deep and lasting impacts on human relationships57. As a form of social exchange the written or printed word provided an ideally impersonal medium for “business contracts, professional recommendations [as opposed to personal], and abstract public relationships58”. The written word provided the medium required in making generalizations about categorical populations, medical diagnoses of unseen microbes and disease, and the economic professional-client relationship. Written language distanced writers, subjects and readers,

  • 59 Ibid., p. 76.

The printed page exemplified detachment, calm consideration, order, permanence, and respectability for judgment. With the written word, for instance, an author could censor, correct, revise, and edit [their] thoughts. In a cerebral and detached environment, a writer could carefully structure the word, and plan the result59.

33The literary technique of case-work signified social work as distinct from the “impulsive” act of charity, the casual occasion of “visiting friends”, or an extension of domestic maternalism. The case-method became the mediating skill-device that distinguished the social and juvenile worker from the alms giver or simple “visitor”, but in the process also participated in the historic division of labor from the domestic sphere, the public and private, the professional and the personal. As a mode of disciplinary surveillance it functioned to moderate and regulate the emotional labor of social work, to standardize the social worker, to discipline the subjects of social work, and finally, to align the relation between the two with the abstract relations of the market in general -as patron and client. In the process of abstraction from the personal relationship, the case method symbolically extended the distance between “the personal” and the labor process and enabled social work to be exchanged as currency (an abstraction of value) in the public market-space of specialized labor. The commodification of social labor through rationalization contributed to the division of personal/ professional, private/ public, child/adult. These divisions corresponded with the notion that a rationalized market was itself a product of modernisms “triumph” over nature, over supposedly primitive, archaic, or non-rationalized forms of exchange – those we might call “personal.”

  • 60 Lubove, The Professional Altruist

34Critical to the meaningful implications of the case method was not only how it functioned to transform charity into labor, the poor and “dangerous” into delinquents and clients, but also the discursive significance of the information collected and made subject to rationalization. Lubove60 describes how in the decades before WWI Mary Richmond drew from the already established link between the growing juvenile court system and the field of psychology to produce the first “technical treatise” on the case method. Attempting to locate the root causes of criminal behavior and poverty (presuming both were indelibly linked), Richmond asserted the social worker’s unique skill was the collection and analysis of “social evidence”, which she defined as:

  • 61 Ibid., p. 47.

[…] consisting of any and all facts as to personal or family history which, taken together, indicate the nature of a given client’s difficulties and the means to their solution’. In minute detail Miss Richmond analyzed the many potential sources: client, family circle, relatives, medical record, school, employer, printed documents, neighbors, and social agencies. Following her investigation and accumulation of social evidence, the social worker would subject it to a “critical examination and comparison” and from this devise an “interpretation and the definition of the social difficulty”61.

  • 62 Addams in Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 96.
  • 63 Richmond in Lubove, The Professional Altruist…, p. 48.

35Analogous to Addams and Brace, who believed that to reform the delinquent they should “know the modern city […] and then seek to rectify and purify it62”, Richmond’s rationalized case method “consisted of ‘those processes which develop personality through adjustments consciously affected, individual by individual, between men and their social environment’63”. The objective promoted by child-savers and other pioneering social workers was to transform the individual through rationalization of the environment. In the case of friendly visitor and the early social work professional, this was alleged to occur through consciously structured observation, documentation, analysis, and manipulation of the subject’s social environment, or at least their relation to it. The difference between Addams to Richmond, the volunteer altruist and the professional social worker, illustrates the secular rationalization of the discourse as it was increasingly professionalized and commodified for circulation in the market. Both approaches advocate a distinct form of governance characterized not by direct rule and repression, but by the indirect orchestration of citizens, laborers, families, and children compelled to govern themselves by the cultural values implicit in the newly rationalized environment.

4. “Civilization”, the Class-Structure of Modern Capitalism, and the Rehabilitative Ideal

  • 64 Quoted in Lubove, The Professional Altruist…, p. 35.

36The distinction of rationalized professionalism from practices emphasizing charitable relationships occurred in part as a struggle against symbolic gender associations, but also as part of ideological contentions about human relationships. According to Dr Richard C. Cabot, a turn-of-the-20th century promoter of rationalized casework in Massachusetts General Hospital, the practice of personal altruistic, volunteer friendly visiting, without any mediating skill between the agent and subject, endorsed a “sense of shame on the one side [philanthropic guilt] or of condescension on the other64”. To Cabot, such personal, subjective, and un-rationalized interactions overtly revealed the paternalistic, moral righteousness of middle-class charity. As a proxy for human relationships, the written text of a case provided the doctor with abstracted “data” and enabled the doctor to make allegedly disinterested decisions about “clients”, unattached to or “biased” by personal relationships.

  • 65 Lisa Delpit, Other Peoples Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, New York, The New Press, (...)
  • 66 Ibid., p. 26.
  • 67 Ibid. ; Jules Henry, Jules Henry on Education, New York, Random House, 1966.

37In her critique of “the culture of power” expressed in North American public schools, Lisa Delpit notes that the acknowledgement of personal power violates liberal discourses of democratic, indeed universal human equality65. Observing teachers’ relationships between themselves and with students, Delpit found that overt expressions of power, even making rules and expectations explicit was perceived to “act against liberal principles, to limit the freedom and autonomy of those subjected to the explicitness66”. The production of professional skills through the development of specialized techniques and standards operates to mediate relations between agents and subjects. Procedural standards that discipline the laborers discretion and behavior function to minimize the recognition of the agent as a person with the privilege of discretion over another’s freedom and direct clients’ attention to the authority of an institutionalized, professional role67. The practice of the case method directed subjects’ (patients, caseworkers, and doctors) attention to the process of the investigation – the record, the diagnosis, the process – rather than the relations of power between them. These liberal values and discursive strategies are at the core of western-enlightenment struggles about the natural order of human social relationships. But as “egalitarian” as it speaks, the discourse of progressive, liberal humanism provided the ideological basis for rationalizing unequal capitalist class-economies in terms of achievement – merit, “meritocracy” – that social stratigraphy is the result of individually earned achievements, rather than socially structured distributions of resources and opportunities.

  • 68 Samuel Haber, Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era 1890-1920, Chica (...)

38In keeping with the ongoing distinction of social-and youth-oriented labor from “the personal”, advocates of scientific benevolence and case-methodology characterized untrained charity as instinctual, arbitrary and arrogantly biased. This stance occurred in tandem with the circumscription of youth to the home, both of which, in Victorian visions of the youth and home, were divided off from the public and the market as agents/sites of production. According to Fredrick Taylor’s concept of “scientific management”, first published in 1911, the untrained philanthropist followed ‘rules of thumb’ and folklore rather than systematic principles of science. Science, “as Taylor thought, was an oracle free from human bias and selfishness which would point the way to an elevating purpose68”.

  • 69 Haber, Efficiency and Uplift…, p. 27.
  • 70 Karen Brodkin, “Diversity in Anthropological Theory”, in Ida Susser, Thomas C. Patterson (ed.), Cu (...)
  • 71 Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism

39Indeed, for Taylor and his progressive contemporaries, ‘objective’ scientific management was not only a business strategy, not only a paradigm of social reform – of the state, of the hygiene of individual persons and places – but also an expression of western progress; of civilization itself. Taylor “asserted that ‘the one element which differentiates civilized countries from uncivilized countries – prosperous from poverty stricken peoples – is that the average man in one is five or six times as productive as in the other69”. By privileging economic production as the most important sign of social value (for individuals as well as whole societies), both progressive and conservative narrations of the past placed men and the industrial society of the West at the pinnacle of human history. Like many of his contemporaries of the Reform Era (progressive or not), Taylor understood the difference between rich and poor, west and “the rest”, objectivity and subjectivity, as expressing a dioramic snapshot of human history, as if “human history was working out of natural law and that the diversity of contemporary non-western societies provided a window on the past70”. The spatial orientation of Taylor’s “elevated purpose” and his Victorian peers’ upward worldview71 strung this unilinear path of civilization hierarchically along a rising curve, placing the educated, capitalist, Anglo-Saxon male protestant at the pinnacle, with gendered, racialized, and age-graded states of “civilization” – including his own personal emotion – along behind and beneath him.

40Narratives of human history, even of individual being, in terms of universal, unilinear progress were widespread and employed in everyday speech. Note the way in which an early “special-class” teacher describes her young charges in her written reports:

  • 72 Devereux in Levine, Levine, Helping Children… p. 23-24. Miss Devereux went on to found a private g (...)

These children were reported not only as being stupid, but “queer.” Among these children thirty-four were of Russian Hebrew extraction and four of Italian. When I had been with the class for one week I abandoned my scheme of memory and sense perception, training the intellect only as a side issue, and I determined to base all my work on the development of the emotions. The great need of those children as I read it then was to make them less like little animals – to instill humanity into them. […] They were subnormal or rather freakish, and all their shortcomings were rather glaring […] With each child I picked out the moral defect or defects which were most emphasized such as selfishness, untruthfulness, stubbornness and temper, and determined to overcome them. […] I cared less that they should learn to write their names […] than they should learn truthfulness, obedience and promptness […] I certainly agree with the educators who say that when once the real personality of the backward child is revealed it is more childlike in its trust, kindliness and simplicity than the normal child.
This class has in one year been a blessing to thirty three children, children who, though never doomed by nature to spend their lives in an institution would surely have drifted to one […] had not some interest been taken in them. […] the success of the class, especially as far as the regeneration of the boys is concerned, has been achieved largely in through the woodwork which was the basis of manual, emotional and mental training […] making useful men and women out of “the least of God’s little ones”72.

41Miss Devereux’s intent to ‘instill humanity into the backward animals’ reflects the reformists’ world-view of self and other in terms of humanist, progressive, civilization. Ethnocentric in its very structure, this world-view informed the narrative of the reformers “rehabilitative ideal” (as well as the narrative structure of subsequent “development” theories of children, and nations). “Civilization”, as a framework for delineating human variation over time and space, situated both immigrants and their children (and in the eyes of many men, women as well) as inferior subjects capable of triggering social disintegration if left uncivilized, unreformed, or undisciplined by their moral superiors. It is from these rather pernicious implications that Platt, Lubove, and other social historians of social control derive appropriate suspicion of professed benevolence. Nevertheless, these rationalizations of history, ethnic difference, labor relations, and discipline, were also part and parcel of the ideological grounds for potential class mobility and human equality set against theological and biological, caste-like notions of social cosmology.

  • 73 Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners, New York, Urizen Books, 1978.

42In his history of the cultural production of emotion, specifically “shame” in relation to the construct of “civility”, Elias outlines how the European Post-Medieval concept of “the civilizing process” came to signify a growing distance between children and adults from, of course, the adults point of view73. “Civilization” also came to embody a sense of collective history and progress, and in this sense signified a contention about the structure of class relations. Tracing the origin of the concept to the German word Kultur, Elias finds the idea of Civilization was a value-claim of the emerging 16th Century bourgeois class of merchants, proto-capitalists, and their educated sons, based on the notion of “achievement.” This was a claim in contradistinction to the claims of inherited or intrinsic social value made by the courtly aristocracy of regional princes and nobles. Elias notes that as middle-class intellectuals disseminated out of the university to all regions of the fractured German Empire, a growing social chasm opened between the isolated, landed aristocracy and the dispersed middle-class:

  • 74 Elias, The Civilizing Process…,p. 21.

In this particularly sharp social division between nobility and middle class […] a decisive factor was no doubt the relative indigence of both. This impelled nobles to cut themselves off, using proof of ancestry as the most important instrument for preserving their privileged existence. On the other hand, it blocked to the German middle class the main route by which in the Western countries bourgeois elements rose, intermarried with, and were received by the aristocracy: through money74

  • 75 Ibid.
  • 76 Weber, The Protestant Ethic…, p. 118.
  • 77 Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, New York, Oxford University Press (...)

43By way of the changing political-economic structures of the Empire, the rise of the German middle-classes occurred against the distribution of wealth by inheritance, resulting in an opposition “between the courtly-aristocratic models and values based on intrinsic worth, on the one hand, and the bourgeois models and values based on achievement, on the other75”. Between these contending visions of value were vastly different visions of social order; status by excusive, even divine inheritance, as opposed to status by worldly achievement – what Max Weber called “The Protestant Ethic” and what we might today call “meritocracy.” In the former, a sovereign and caste-like system of fixed destinies, in the latter a narrative structure of progressive self-development and social mobility. Tracing these contentions to the monastic asceticism extended by Protestant Reformers, Weber described how conflicts with the Catholic Church revolved around this very tension between the mediation of faith through preordained hierarchies, and the idea that “a life guided by constant thought could achieve conquest over the state of nature76”. Williams’ etymology also describes how by the late 18th century, the “civilization” had “behind it the general spirit of enlightenment, with its emphasis on secular and progressive human self-development. Civilization expressed this sense of historical process, but also celebrated the associated sense of modernity: an achieved condition of refinement and order77”. The sense of achievement in relation to others in time and space was the cultural basis for concepts and movements of “reform” or the “rehabilitative ideal”.

  • 78 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 45.

44For Progressive Era child-savers, who claimed that “When an individual actually enters upon a criminal career, let us try to catch him at a tender age, and subject him to rational social discipline78”, notions of “the civilizing process” explained the panoply of difference and inequality they saw around them. Civilization explained the distance between child and adult, city and country, immigrant, criminal and “citizen”, private and public, personal and professional, and most times, women and men as well. The notion of progress lay at the heart of theories of childhood development and the rehabilitative ideal. Civilization provided a framework for organizing the means by which distances from ‘the least of God’s little ones’ to ‘making useful men and women out of them’ could be traversed. Civilization also provided for the idea that such social distances could be traversed at all.

  • 79 Elias, The Civilizing Process…, p. 5.

45Central to the experience of modern, industrial, capitalist social life was the structured feeling of movement, mobility; “Civilization describes a process or at least the result of a process. It refers to something which is constantly in motion, constantly moving forward79”. As a central concern of the “Civilized” (recall Charles Loring Brace’s fears about the future), this “future orientation” was a value that translated directly into social discipline:

  • 80 Thomas Haskell, “Capitalism and the Origins of Humanitarian Sensibility. Part II”, in The American (...)

Teaching people the virtues of reflection and close attention to the distant consequences of their actions came to be regarded as a universal key to social progress, whether in the education of children, the ‘moral treatment’ of the insane, the cultivation of self-reliance in paupers, or the widely imitated incentive schemes of [penal reformer] Alexander Maconochie, which were intended to produce the same effect among prisoners80.

46What’s more, as a universalizing concept, “civilization” transcended difference. While unevenly stringing all of humanity along an incessant march “forward”, notions of achieved civilization also implied a sense of collective human equality. Perhaps to the dismay of men like G. Stanley Hall, who would himself coin the term “adolescence” as a stage of human development, discourses of “civilization” could be appropriated by educated Victorian women toward the ends of achievement as much as their male German predecessors.

5. Social Cosmology & Social Work in the Evolution Debates of the Reform Era

  • 81 Cf. Haskell, “Capitalism and the Origins… Part I”…; Muraskin, “The Social Control Theory…”.

47Aspiring social-work and juvenile justice professionals also had fundamental challenges to overcome vis-à-vis competing theories of social difference and inequality. Debates in late 19th and early 20th century physical anthropology and penology surrounding the root causes of crime illustrate the persistence and significance of the cultural struggle between social cosmologies of inherited or ascribed status, and of civilization and achieved status. Platt, admittedly and mistakenly, reduced the child-savers’ claims of altruism to pure class interests in the privileges of existing social order, an allegation of the child savers’ as collectively self-interested. Examining the antagonistic feudal relations from which the achievement oriented discourse of “civilization” derived illustrates that it was not necessarily the implied conspiracy of collective self-interest and propaganda critics have accused Platt and Lubove of constructing81. At the same time the civilizing discourse provided grounds for the rehabilitative ideal and the possibility of social mobility through achievement, “civilization” also provided the structural framework that would explain and reproduce hierarchical class structures characteristic of capitalist social organization.

  • 82 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 23.
  • 83 Lee D. Baker, From Savage to Negro: anthropology and the construction of race, 1896-1954, Berkeley (...)
  • 84 Brodkin, “Diversity in Anthropological Theory…”.
  • 85 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 25.

48In the closing decade of the 19th century, criminal anthropologists favoring hereditary theories of social inequality and crime, such as Herbert Spencer, Cesare Lombroso, Arthur MacDonald, and Robert Fletcher, dominated the literature and theories of penology in the United States. Fletcher defined criminal anthropology as “the study of individuals who are compelled to commit crimes as a consequence of ‘physical conformation, hereditary taint, or surroundings of vice, poverty, and ill example’82”. Anthropology played a key role in the production of popular racialized evolutionary discourse and social policy regarding immigration anxieties and the future of a “poisoned” society83. While significant variations existed in the ways contending theories of evolution interpreted modern civilization as in apogee or decline, most supported the common ethnocentric assumption that those “other” than Anglo-European, American, middle-class represented earlier, primitive and “savage” stages of human history84. Theories that explained social inequality in terms of the immutable and deterministic biological difference and racial categories, typified by the “survival of the fittest” writings of Herbert Spencer and “phrenologist” Cesare Lombroso, buttressed notions that the “dangerous classes” had to be controlled by either life-long incarceration or forced sterilization. Reflecting later Eugenics sterilization policies, which were enacted in more than thirty U.S. states and in Nazi Germany, Nathan Allen bluntly spoke to the National Conference of Charities and Correction: “If our object, then, is to prevent crime on a large scale […] the supplies must be cut off85”. As Platt noted, the idea of immutable hereditary pathology presented a challenge to the rehabilitative ideal and to professionally aspiring reformers.

49However, what Platt did not go as far to explain is why in fact claims to environmental influence or rehabilitation would compliment their class interests, besides creating the space for individual careers. This is where the “class interests” thesis begins to look like conspiracy theory. A further look at the existing material, however, illustrates two important points: first, that reformers’ claims were themselves contentions in relation to determinist and caste-like configurations of human variation and inequality, and second that there is no necessary contradiction between the underlying notions of the rehabilitative ideal and the collective class interests of the professional middle-class.

50For example, reformers rejected inheritance models of social [dis]order not just on scientific grounds, opposing inheritance with Darwinist notions of environmental adaptation, but also in privileging of worldly achievement over divine predestination. Platt cites the 1891 welcoming speech of W.P. Fishback, chair of the Indianapolis reception committee at the National Conference of Charities and Correction:

  • 86 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 31.

While you utterly reject the cold and hard laissez-faire philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer, you are no less opposed to the equally false and fatalistic pessimism of certain ecclesiastics, who affect to see in the great spectacle of the worlds misery a wise scheme for the edification of a few select saints who are to be caught up some day and whisked away from their cushioned pews to paradise. Disease, vice, poverty are not preordained86.

  • 87 Ibid., p. 34.

51Fishback’s rhetorical description of Spencer’s theories as “laissez-faire” a term synonymous with unregulated (read undisciplined) free market capitalism, and the elitist implications of church dogma (read as arbitrary), signals more than a bid for career advancement, but an engagement with ideological struggles central to the formation of a class society rationalized by the logic of achievement. Fundamental to the construction of a class society, where social mobility is at least believed possible, as opposed to a caste-like society of explicitly fixed social groups, is the notion of mobility through achievement – Civilization. Platt cites E.R.L. Gould’s The Statistical Study of Hereditary Criminality (1895): “There is great danger in emphasizing heredity, and by contrast minimizing the influence of environment and individual responsibility. Consequences doubly unfortunate must ensue. Individual stamina will be weakened, and society made to feel less keenly the duty of reforming environment87”.

52If inheritance (divine or biological) ruled both behavior and the social order, then not only could the “dangerous classes” not be expected to reform and discipline themselves, not only would notions of “rescuing” or “saving” the poor be fruitless, but the very idea of social mobility based on individual merit, self-discipline, even free will could not be sustained. Notions of inheritance jeopardized the moral grounds of achievement upon which the middle class justified their own mobility in the stratified conditions of modern industrial society. What’s more, if the modernist “reform of the environment” is abandoned, not only does achievement seem a moot concept, but the very basis of Civilization; progress, mobility, the history of humanity, all this comes to a halt.

6. A Cultural History of Social Labor

53Following Platt’s dictum to situate the child savers in the context of the structural conditions of progressivism requires an approach that is both critical of the repressive and “downward” social effects of the professions and institutions they helped to shape, as well as cognizant of the way in which their reform discourse emerged in contention with other forms of power, other visions of social order, inequality, and self-in-history. Taking a heterarchical and multidimensional perspective on agents’ cultural practices in social and historical context also requires re-examining claims that reformers were not out to change the existing social order. In addition to the way in which they asserted new roles for women in the public and economic sphere of Victorian rule, often utilizing the very discursive concepts of gender and human history that served to reproduce inequality, those that advocated the discourse of reform were also making assertions about the nature of humanity and the moral governance of social relationships and processes. This does not absolve the child savers, or the Reform Movement of the pernicious social consequences of discipline and repression inflicted on populations of marginal ethnic groups and laborers, the young and old, male and female. Nor is this a defense of the romantic view of the child savers, but an attempt to illustrate how those hierarchical practices of professional expertise, and benevolent reform – of “instilling humanity into those backward animals” – were aspects of a world view that emerged against those that considered cultural and social hierarchies to be natural and immutable elements of an ordained and predetermined cosmos.

Notes

1 Laura S. Abrams, Laura Curran, “Wayward Girls and Virtuous Women: Social Workers and Female Juvenile Justice in the Progressive Era”, in Affilia, 15(49), 2000.

2 Anthony M. Platt, “The Child Saving Movement and the Origins of the Juvenile Justice System”, in Paul M. Sharp, Barry W. Hancock (ed.), Juvenile Delinquency: Historical, Theoretical, and Societal Reactions to Youth, Second Edition, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1998, p. 3-16.

3 Anthony M. Platt, The child savers: the invention of delinquency, Second Ed., London & Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1977 (1st ed.: 1969, UCP; Expanded 40th Anniversary Edition, Rutgers University Press, 2009).

4 June Nash, “Labor Struggles: Gender, Ethnicity, and the New Migration”, in Ida Susser, Thomas C. Patterson (ed.), Cultural Diversity in the United States, Malden, Mass., Blackwell Publishing, 2001, p. 206-228.

5 Murray Levine, Adeline Levine, Helping Children: A Social History, New York & Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 11.

6 Nash, “Labor Struggles…”.

7 Hugh Cunningham, Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500, London, Longman, 1995, p. 135.

8 Laura S. Abrams, Laura Curran, “Wayward Girls and Virtuous Women: Social Workers and Female Juvenile Justice in the Progressive Era”, in Affilia, 15 (49), 2000, p.53.

9 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. xx.

10 Platt, “The Child Saving Movement…”.

11 Cf. William A. Muraskin, “The Social Control Theory in American History: A Critique”, in Journal of Social History, 9 (4), 1976, p. 559-569, or, Thomas L. Haskell, “Capitalism and the Origins of Humanitarian Sensibility, Part I”, in The American Historical Review, 90 (2), 1985, p. 339-361.

12 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 4.

13 Ibid., p. xviii.

14 Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977.

15 Sources for this “cultural revision” were drawn from a series of literature searches using the Web of Science, Social Science Citation Index, and the holdings of the Davis Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Beginning with those citing Platt’s work (cited here), a search was conducted on SSCI for monographs, articles, and reviews re-examining the cultural basis of reformers’ ideals of reform in terms of “civilization”. Bibliographic and catalogue searches were then conducted to identify sources examining the role of culture, or aspects of culture (such as perceptions of expertise, class, gender, and youth) in the rationalization or professionalization of work engaging juvenile delinquency, social welfare, or social work.

16 Natan Sznaider, “Compassion and Control: Children in Civil Society”, in Childhood, 4 (2), 1997, p. 223-240.

17 Sznaider, “Compassion and Control…”, p. 226-227.

18 Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners, New York, Urizen Books, 1978.

19 Platt, The Child Savers

20 Brace quoted in Platt, “The Child Saving Movement…”, p. 8.

21 Cunningham, Children and Childhood…, p. 87-89.

22 Sznaider, “Compassion and Control…”.

23 Charles Loring Brace in Sznaider, “Compassion and Control…”, p. 229.

24 Levine, Levine, Helping Children…, p. 192.

25 Bowen in Platt, The Child Savers… p. 92.

26 Addams in Platt, The Child Savers… p. 91.

27 Bowen in Platt, The Child Savers… p. 88.

28 Joseph R. Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement, Urbana & Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1986.

29 Cited in Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade…, p. 71.

30 Abrams, Curran, “Wayward Girls…”; Robyn Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform 1890-1935, New York & Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991.

31 G. E. Howe in Platt, The Child Savers… p. 80 (original emphasis).

32 Abrams, Curran, “Wayward Girls…”, p. 53.

33 Ibid.

34 The first president of the American Psychological Association, Hall coined the term “storm and stress”, to describe adolescence.

35 Abrams, Curran, “Wayward Girls…”, p. 51.

36 Ibid.

37 Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion

38 Muncy’s reference to these workers as “professionals” references their status both as educated and, perhaps, more experientially informed about poverty than their “non- professional” benefactors. However, the labeling of these workers as “professionals” overlooks the contested nature of the category and the struggle for professional identity Muncy describes.

39 Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion…, p. 20.

40 Ibid., p. 23.

41 Ibid., p. 22.

42 Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion…; Platt, The Child Savers

43 Bowen in Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 79.

44 Ibid., p. 92.

45 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. xxi.

46 Lynn Cooper, The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove: an Analysis of the US Police, Berkeley, Center for Research on Criminal Justice, 1975, p. 20.

47 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Talcott Parsons Trans., London & New York, Routledge, 1930, p. 161.

48 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 45.

49 Michel Foucault, “Governmentality”, in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, Peter Miller (ed.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, London, Harvester/Wheatsheaf, 1991.

50 Colin Gordon, “Governmental Rationality: an Introduction”, in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, Peter Miller (ed.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, London, Harvester/Wheatsheaf, 1991, p. 2.

51 Gordon, “Governmental Rationality…”, p. 2.

52 Roy Lubove, The Professional Altruist: The Emergence of Social Work as a Career 1880-1930, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1965, p. 158.

53 Lubove, The Professional Altruist

54 Ibid., p. 12.

55 Ibid., p. 23-28.

56 Ibid., p. 34.

57 Burton J. Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism: The Middle Class and the Development of Higher Education in America, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1976, p. 70-77.

58 Ibid., p. 75.

59 Ibid., p. 76.

60 Lubove, The Professional Altruist

61 Ibid., p. 47.

62 Addams in Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 96.

63 Richmond in Lubove, The Professional Altruist…, p. 48.

64 Quoted in Lubove, The Professional Altruist…, p. 35.

65 Lisa Delpit, Other Peoples Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, New York, The New Press, 1995.

66 Ibid., p. 26.

67 Ibid. ; Jules Henry, Jules Henry on Education, New York, Random House, 1966.

68 Samuel Haber, Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era 1890-1920, Chicago & London, University of Chicago Press, 1964, p. 29.

69 Haber, Efficiency and Uplift…, p. 27.

70 Karen Brodkin, “Diversity in Anthropological Theory”, in Ida Susser, Thomas C. Patterson (ed.), Cultural Diversity in the United States, Malden, Mass., Blackwell Publishing, 2001 p. 376.

71 Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism

72 Devereux in Levine, Levine, Helping Children… p. 23-24. Miss Devereux went on to found a private group of residential treatment centers that in 1992, long after her passing, was still the largest of its kind in the U.S.

73 Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners, New York, Urizen Books, 1978.

74 Elias, The Civilizing Process…,p. 21.

75 Ibid.

76 Weber, The Protestant Ethic…, p. 118.

77 Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, New York, Oxford University Press, 1983, p. 58.

78 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 45.

79 Elias, The Civilizing Process…, p. 5.

80 Thomas Haskell, “Capitalism and the Origins of Humanitarian Sensibility. Part II”, in The American Historical Review, 90 (3), 1985, p. 561-562.

81 Cf. Haskell, “Capitalism and the Origins… Part I”…; Muraskin, “The Social Control Theory…”.

82 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 23.

83 Lee D. Baker, From Savage to Negro: anthropology and the construction of race, 1896-1954, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1998.

84 Brodkin, “Diversity in Anthropological Theory…”.

85 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 25.

86 Platt, The Child Savers…, p. 31.

87 Ibid., p. 34.

Auteur

(University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Erik Paul Reavely received his PhD & MA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (US). He is presently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Social Medicine of the UNC. His current research deals with social networks and cultural capital of health system laborers, managers and leadership. Major recent papers delivered: « Personal Experience as Public Labor in the Age of Neoliberalism », American Anthropological Association, Philadelphia, PA, 2009; « Organic Expertise and the Cultural Politics of Youth Work », Invited Panel to the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, CA, 2008; « The Cultural Politics of Youth Work », American Ethnological Society & Society for the Anthropology of North America, Wilmington, NC, 2008.

© Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2011

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