New Book: Daniel Raventós’ and Julie Wark’s “Against Charity”
Both authors argue for an unconditional universal basic income above the poverty line and paid for by progressive taxation to both eradicate poverty and empower recipients—the result being the human right of material existence. The burning issue is not charity, but justice.
Raventós and Wark affirm that charity is not a gift. In their own words, “gift-giving implies reciprocity, an ongoing relationship. When requital is impossible, the act of giving remains outside mutual ties and charity becomes yet another manifestation of class structure, a sterile one-way act upholding the status quo”.
Vacuuming up all the profits thanks to a weak labor movement, lower taxes, and tax havens, the global elite then turns around and remakes the world in its own image, distributing charitable donations that can hardly be mistaken with generosity. In the book, postmodern versions of nineteenth-century charity are described as trying to keep wealth and power in a few hands, countering people’s desire for greater income equality.
Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark present a thorough analysis of charity from the perspectives of philosophy, history, religion, and anthropology. They conclude that charity is an unequal relationship, presupposing the persistence of poverty and serving as a prop for capitalism.
Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark, “Against Charity”, CounterPunch, 2018