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Deconstruction of charity. Postmodern ethical approaches.


The postmodern perspective aims to the deconstruction of the great meta-narratives (1) that have shaped the progress of mankind, starting with faith in the immutable essence of the world and of things, continuing with the Enlightenment and the Romantic myth of history as continuous progress, through the Marxist vision of the emancipation of the oppressed and building an egalitarian society without social classes, etc. Metanarratives are legitimate structures that allow the direction of the game as a form of power (2).

In this paper we propose to address from a postmodern perspective the concept of charity and its deconstruction at the level of social practices seen as instruments of power.

The thesis of the article is that the process of deconstruction of charity, as a religious value which regulates in a Christian manner the reference to the other, is the foundation of restorative social policies and professionalized social work as a social action.

We will follow the deconstruction of charity by showing the hermeneutic codes that allow the understanding of social policies including providential social state in Foucault terms of establishing instances of ethical sense.

We argue that the deconstruction method can be applied by analyzing the instances of social construction of a social symbolic phenomenon.

Charity as a meta-narration

Deconstruction operates, according to Lyotard (3) and Foucault (4), at the level of the meta-story; the deconstructive instance is represented by the language games. We will understand deconstruction in an anti-essentialist manner as an abandoning of totalizing thinking in a constructivist manner (5) that favors the analysis of interpretative conventions which establish themselves at the level of various interpretative communities and establish the sense of social construct. Social construction is a fact of language that once established takes the role of a particular meta-story for the discussed fact or social institution.

The deconstruction follows therefore the identification of interpretative instances generative of the social construct on the one hand, and variations of meanings for a social construct, across different stories, on the other hand. We will not argue therefore the waiving of the meta-story but we will deny its intrinsic essence.

We will not adhere in a universalist approach to the Enlightenment myth of social progress, but will follow the transformations of a social construct--that of charity--in different interpretive contexts, which once constituted, is subjectively interpreted by the community as social progress.

Quitting universality is, in our opinion, the result of universalizing the contextual. We will pursue the constructive interpretive contexts that generated the idea of social policies and social work practice as a contemporary deconstruction of charity. The meta-narrative of charity as Christian duty, by passing through the secular interpretive and atomizer context of postmodernity, becomes a narrative about social responsibility and equity in ethical dimension and is translated into restorative community practices in social action plan. Welfare practices either as public policies or as social intervention forms are, in our view, implementations at the social level of a new meta-narrative interpretative grids (6) typical of postmodern society.

The deconstruction of the Kantian ethics of duty as a universalizing story about abstract autonomy and its correlation with transcendent freedom finds its fulfillment in applied ethics and bioethics as custom forms of an ethics based on the horizon of duty (7). Applied ethics is atomic and often reject major moral theories as inadequate to social action.

Essentialist ethics vs. constructionist ethics

The Kantian deontological perspective concerns the just or unjust intrinsic nature of an action, regardless of consequences. We discuss from an essentialist perspective based on the premise that there is a moral value in itself which may be known to moral agents who have to determine the moral character of one's own actions. Ethical principles should be highlighted by the very natural order of things as the universal moral norm is a universal datum. The practical application of the moral norm provides correct ethical behavior regardless of its consequences. Moral values are included in the principles and derive from them as a logical consequence. Therefore moral values are also universal. in a constructionist ethics, on the other hand, we consider moral values to be the results of a negotiating collective action of interpretation of what really has value. Principles represent the way the interpretive community chooses to transpose dominant ethical values into social practice, resulting from the interpretive pact. Ethical value is a language convention accepted as having value in itself, while the ethical principle is a social construct of the communicational actions (8) constructed around that ethical value. At the level of any social practices we will have constitutive ethical values and operational ethical values. Constitutive ethical values establish the ethical foundation of social practices, while the second set of values governs the social implementation of the first values. once accepted in an interpretive community, values and principles receive an imperative constructive value, similar to that of essences in essentialist ethics. Constitutive social work values among which we mention the development of beneficiaries' autonomy, the achievement of social justice through equitable redistribution of values, ensuring equal opportunities for persons belonging to vulnerable, discriminated and marginalized groups constitute precisely the practical implementation of the ethical vision contained by various public policies. The social construction process is continuous, being the structured environment of social interaction. Therefore it is not awarded by moral agents that assign an essential value to constructs. only deconstruction processes can highlight the interpretive pact which states and implements a moral value in the form of principles of ethical action.

We consider therefore that principlist ethics is such a model of social construction of ethical principles, which emphasize ethical postulates accepted by a community (9) as common morality and turn them into practical principles having a core value. Principlist ethics can be considered, in our opinion, as belonging to the deontological paradigm. The ethical justification of actions is done by reference to the principle, either in its essence quality, or as a social construct, but having both the maximum universal moral value.

The process of the deconstruction of charity, as religious value which regulates in a Christian manner the reference to the other, is the foundation of restorative social policies and social work professionalized as a social action. We analyze the deconstruction of the Christian idea of charity from two perspectives, namely:

--secularization of charitable practices--the replacement of charity and helping the other with the implementation of an ethical value in the social action plan such as the restorative and distributive justice of equity as equal opportunity or chance, etc.

--constructive foundation of particular meta-narratives of our time, which we call secular society and/or knowledge based society (10).

The deconstruction of charity brings to the fore other ethical values such as social solidarity, responsibility, etc. Secularization is an example of the conservation of a social construct that is the ethical value of charity, in the context of a meta-narrative radical change, its Christian dimension in this case. We could speak of a conservation charity essence: that of social action motivated by ethical ideals in favor of a significantly alter. The apparent conservation of essence is possible due to the interpretive pact that generated it, that retains its binding ability. in the absence of religious power, restorative welfare action not only retains the character of applied ethics, but is enriched by dialogue with social policies, and social theology.

Charity--Philosophical and theological fundaments

The old Testament ethical-axiological system as we perceive it today has as fundamental value the reciprocity or retribution. Moral principles: do not steal, do not lie, do not commit adultery, are applicable as there is retribution-punishment for their violation. The retribution's logic has as substrate the onto-axiological principle of autocracy. God is the one that does not allow competition, and as such, his will acts retributive. Affirmation of God's oneness is opposed to the otherness interdiction "You shall have no other Gods besides me". Prohibition of otherness, in fact the interdiction of the acceptance of otherness, or alterity reporting, is regarded as a denial of possible multiple (11).

Christian Ethics (12) counterpart proposes a pragmatic positive type, "Love and do what you want". Love is the guarantee for the positive. Love transcends the interdiction, because retribution is no longer sanctioning negative, but positive for salvation. Salvation is not consideration of good deeds, such as it might believe in the logic of the interdiction, but God's affirmation of the saving will and purpose. Salvation comes in the redemption from sins, by which God Himself through the sacrifice of his own son unifies retribution's logic with the logic of freedom. Retribution continues to exist but is absorbed by the grace of God. Fall is cancelled by descent (13).

God, as a Supreme Retributor, assumes the retribution by bringing thereby the salvation. The two ethical-axiological systems are thus disjoint, in terms of ontic perception, but complementary in terms of praxeology (14).

A pragmatic Christian could be seen as serving the other. Dimensions of Christian love at first level concern forgiveness, acceptance and devotion. The social expression of the Christian mentioned ethical values takes the form of philanthropy and charity. (15) Charity means voluntary involvement in helping those in need and is motivated by the moral and religious sense of duty to the other.

Philanthropy and Charity. Serving the other

Serving the other appears as a Christian duty placed under the command of Christ "I want mercy and not sacrifice." Loving the other is not a mere emotional reaction to the presence of the other, but need to be accompanied by the Christian duty to do well to one's fellow man. The term philanthropy is made up of the Greek word philos-love and anthroposman. The first meaning of philanthropy is therefore love of people. In social practice it is a social action based on humanist beliefs to dedicate one's entire life, or at least a significant period of time, helping others and to contribute financial and material resources to helping the other. The term has a strong Christian connotation, Christianity being the spiritual environment in which it was born. The charitable settlements model dates back to the beginnings of Christianity as the official religion in the reign of Constantine (16).

Charity in the first Christian centuries in the Middle Ages primarily targeted people who were not themselves sufficient (unable to be self-sufficient) (17). Missionary activity was combined with care, which is an expression of Christian virtues. A number of saints are mentioned for their assistance-vocation: D. Francis Assissi, Mother Paraskeva, etc. The care institutions' model was that of hospitals represented as asylums.

Secularization of charity and deconstruction of duty

As Lipovetsky (18) shows, there is a deconstruction of the moral value of duty. Duty is a moral concept governing the privacy of the Kantian autonomous individual (19). With the un-privatization of social life (20), a migration occurs from the private sphere of social action to the public one. Ethical responsibility becomes a moral duty. The concept of duty undergoes a deconstruction of the moral sense by integrating it into the public space and eliminating the ontological meaning.

Moral duty is based on the background to the transcendent spiritual duty. understood as Kantian, duty is individual. By moving from individual morals to ethics in public space, the concept of duty loses the personal character. Duty is a conversion of moral liability in social action. When a person owes respect to this we are in a situation of moral duty. Specifically, showing respect to the others is a situation of social action. Duty involves the moral obligation of transforming moral liability into social action. We exercise our duty to our fellows through charity.

Responsibility can be seen as a deconstruction of duty by passing it into the public sphere (21). Even if we discuss about individual responsibility, including the responsibility for ourselves, responsibility has a public and active dimension. Social action outweighs the moral liability. The two concepts, duty and responsibility, are correlative, the first acting from the private to the public sphere, and the second from the public sphere to the private sphere. Robert Goodin shows that the term of responsibility comes from consequentialist ethics while duty from deontological ethics. In this respect, duty drives action while responsibility drives results. Responsibility may involve the action of the others, while duty refers to its own action (22).

Responsibility involves the individual's ability of moral agent and therefore autonomy from an ethical standpoint. Responsibility faces consequences, governing the ethical decision sphere, not moral evaluation. A social action may be ethically assessed and therefore may involve responsibility without however a moral implication in the deontological sense. The social worker can analyze the consequences of his client's actions, for example dysfunctional behaviors, without this constituting a moral judgment. Ethical evaluation involves the analysis of possible consequences and is future oriented, while moral judgment aims at virtue or vice involved in an action, the fulfillment of moral obligation, and is therefore backward oriented.

The ethics of charity is based on the duty to the other, while moral agency ethics (social intervention) is based on responsibility. In social work we discuss the theory of care, aimed at maintaining the client's status quo and integration into society, from our perspective as an approach to deontic ethics and the theory of social change aimed at empowering the client to a maximum of social functioning thereof. We see this paradigm as consequentialist-utilitarian. The ethics of charity has a realistic nature, paternalistic and retributive, based on a transcendent foundation. Moral ethics agency has a character based on co-antirealist social construction and has a restorative nature.

From a secular point of view, the Elizabethan Poor Law is the oldest law which defines the categories of persons who are entitled to help (23). This legislation underpins the secular approach to the protection of persons in need. Philanthropic activity continues to be an important area for the allocation of resources for the care of people in need. Philanthropic concerns are generally related to the spiritual and religious wellbeing of social groups. Charity and philanthropy are seen as forms of social welfare management based on the donor-recipient relationship (24).

Public or private donations are an important source of funding for charitable actions and programs. We believe that welfare policies are a form of secularization of charity, maintaining a paternalistic paradigm of care. Welfare-ism is an application of social justice. There are people in need because society is pyramidal. The role of the paternalistic welfare is to return a part of the added value to individuals who usually would not have access to it in a liberal state. We can therefore speak about a liberal social justice as equality, and welfare based as the marginal distribution of added value and the minimum's guarantee.

Secularization of charity transfers the care action to disadvantaged groups from the virtuous individual to the responsible state towards its citizens. Compassion becomes social solidarity for the disadvantaged.

Deconstruction of charity within faith-based organizations

The social doctrine of the Church. From charity to justice

The origin of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church is the patristic tradition and the encyclical Rerum Novarum required by Pope Leo XIII. The Catholic Church has introduced into the public sphere a true contemporary social doctrine through the encyclicals of Pope John Paul II --Laborem Excerns, Sollicitudo socialis and Centesimus Annus Rei, and the activity of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2007.

The social doctrine introduced in 1891 (Rerum Novarum) the ideas of fairness, social justice, fair salary as possible bases of equitable social policies, while rejecting the arbitrariness of power relations between employers and employees and the visions against property of Marxist orientation. Leo XIII shows the link between freedom and truth residing in this connection, the Christian social policies. The author of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum discusses the individuals' rights to a just salary and sufficient time to rest properly, the defense of human dignity, the need for social protection and social solidarity.

Commenting the ideas of Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II in Centisimus Annus shows that social justice can be achieved only from a perspective based on the anthropological centrality of the value of human dignity. Criticizing socialist excesses, John Paul II subordinates them to the atheist vision which denies human greatness and transcendence. Charity becomes social action and the Church proposes a Christian ethics of social responsibility based on solidarity and social justice (25).

Friendly visitors

Professionalized social debut as a practice is marked by charitable activities within some specific ecumenical organizations. The late nineteenth century and early twentieth century was regarded as a period of onset of modern social work, with the establishment of the first faculty of Social Work in the Pennsylvania School of Social Work, the first journal in the field--"Monthly Register"--and the activity of the Society for Organizing Charitable Relief and repressing Mendicancy (SOC) (26) being particularly linked to the work of Mary Richmond. From the spiritual point of view, Friendly Visitors have not privileged the membership in a particular religion, but adherence to the principles of charity.

The emergence of social work as a charitable practice is based on a process of secularization of charity that transforms it from a Christian value into a general human one, allowing the turn from helping a fellow Christian morality to the ethical understanding of charity as social responsibility.

SOC activity can be described in contemporary terms as having two main directions: direct intervention based on volunteering, and fundraising for charity.

SOC objectives aim at combating poverty and marginalization phenomena.

SOC fights against poverty through the converging attitudes through counseling programs.

SOC also has the initiative to involve women in voluntary activities dealing with social problems. Women's participation in social activities (27) is a priority for the early twentieth century when this social group suffered a severe restriction of civil and political rights. Involvement of women in the predominantly social activity undertaken by Friendly Visitors was justified by their organizers given women's ability to be more sympathetic and dedicated (28). The same arguments will later be the base for the creation of an ethics of care as in C. Gilligan (29) and N. Noddings (30).

Social programs developed by faith-based organizations

At the basis of the Romanian social system are the international faith-based organizations (31) which have gradually transformed social responsibility (32) into a determiner of social action (33). The social mission of faith centered organizations (34) is sometimes enunciated or directly oriented in the religious purpose which in most cases is that of supporting the weak, be the voice of those who cannot speak, act developing solidarity, compassion and charity in the community to fulfill the divine command. Faith-based organizations declare their aim to develop a practice based on Christian values and principles, helping children grow in an environment of dignity and truth (35).

In the context of a welfare system based on transnational organizations' values, Sider and Unru (36) proposed the following typology with the goal of exposing faith-based organizations' diversity:

--Organizations in which religion was introduced;

--Faith centered organizations;

--Faith affiliated organizations;

--Faith founded organizations;

--Partnerships based on secularism;

--Secular organizations (37).

In Romania the organizations developed or affiliated to traditional congregations have shown a tendency to professionalize their activities through the transition from simple charitable actions to the implementation of complex programs of social intervention, and with it the secularization of social activities in order to reduce the inequality of access to quality services.

The influences of the transnational social work organizations of religious nature led to the development of the Romanian welfare system, leading gradually to professionalized social practices, providing high standard services to vulnerable groups, rather than the basic intervention centered on charity.

The main faith-centered organizations that entered the Romanian social system as subsidiaries of parent transnational organizations managed to resist in the Romanian post-communist society, adapted by secularizing their activities. Services were generalized and taken by the central authorities, at which time the establishment of public-private partnerships and partnerships between the secular and the religious became necessary, with an impact on the professionalization and secularization of social practice (38).

In the Romanian context, during the post-communist era since 1989, faith-centered organizations developed with diverse forms of adaptation to local conditions. Many religious organizations affiliated to transnational organizations changed their types of programs. Keeping the original stated mission and values but affiliated to different religions then orthodoxy, the organizations gradually began to develop secular action programs, constrained by the necessity of financial survival. The religious affiliation of staff or customers was no longer an eligibility criterion.

Social policies as meta-text. Deconstruction of charity for practical reasons

The foundation of social policies aimed at vulnerable populations is reflected in the ethical theory and social philosophy of the twentieth century. A number of ethical values such as social justice, equity, equality is transformed into social action principles underlying the social policy, health policy, education policy, etc.

John Rawls is considered one of the most valuable American philosophers and ethicists of the twentieth century that reflected the social and the political. His work A Theory of Justice (39) anticipates the theoretical framework of social policies, aimed at equitable distribution of the available added value to society.

The Rawlsian liberal political philosophy is based on the idea of legitimacy and stability, which enables in a legal state the manifestation of citizens' different points of view. Citizens of the democratic state accept the legitimacy of law, which is understood as reasonable (40). John Rawls restructures the social contract theory, by bringing it within the scope of political regulation in the ethical justification of the action. Cudd (41) classifies John Rawls among Kantian contractualists. Rawls's social contract theory concerns the acceptance of mutually beneficial rational principles of justice by members of society. Understanding the social contract, as a negotiation of interpretation of principles of justice, places the Rawlsian vision within the constructivist philosophy. The origin of the Kantian vision of presumed rationality (42) that all actors are involved in the ethical decision, places them on an equal position and autonomy. The social contract is based on primordial equality of individuals which are behind a veil of ignorance. From this pre-social state--and the presemiotic postmodern understanding--individuals step into the "contractual" phase of justice based society. Rational capacity of building the judiciary as the social foundation is undermined by the disadvantaged position of disabled people (43). The maximum moral standard of operation in a society is the fair distribution of justice (44) (Justice as fairness). The basic structure of society is the focus of justice, as political and social institutions (45) such as the legal system, the economy, family, distribute the benefits and difficulties of social life (46). Manifestation of the basic structure of society requires a deep understanding, as profoundly influences the attitudes, goals, relationships and individual character.

There are two principles of justice as fairness:

1. Every person has the inalienable right to a set of equal basic liberties compatible with the freedoms of others.

2. Social and economic inequalities created in society must be manifested in terms of equal opportunities (Fair Equality of Opportunity) and the maximum benefit for the most disadvantaged members of society (the difference principle) (47).

Rawls (48) also emphasizes the primary goods which are absolutely necessary for the welfare of the individual. Between primary goods are found freedoms and fundamental rights, including freedom of movement and free choice of occupation rights, wealth and income levels, responsibility, respect and social esteem, recognition of merit.

Egalitarianism in the opinion of Eugen Huzum (49) is the trend in political philosophy that defends the idea of social justice on the basis of substantial equality among community members. Without being a political theory in the sense of doctrine, egalitarianism aims at the fundamental principles of justice which create standards of "moral evaluation" in particular to assess the justice or injustice of a situation, or of practices, laws, institutions, social arrangements, etc." (50)

In terms of political views, the egalitarian vision is congruent with the socialist, liberal or communitarian one. Social justice principles describe moral grounds for practical deliberations including public policies (51). Equality principles may underlie some amending policies to offset the social inequalities. Regarding actual equality a distinction is made between distributive egalitarianism with its subcategories, egalitarianism of chance and opportunities egalitarianism, egalitarianism of resources, respectively the egalitarianism (52). For equal opportunities, a representative position is that of John Rawls. The distribution of justice targets the existing resources in society and the benefits existing therein. Equal opportunities aim at the initial equal opportunities or the neutralization of disadvantages faced by individuals throughout life (53).

An important issue for social justice is individual responsibility. Equity of access to resources may be a source of diminishing social responsibility towards its own. The compensation of inequity in the distribution of resources may encourage social passivity. Thus moral hazard intervenes, which by leaving it up to the agent, of the action accountable to its own condition, is a source of inequity (54) between the responsible and the irresponsible. Social action, generated by the practical application of egalitarian policies, can target on the one hand, the equality in access to resources and opportunities, and on the other hand the equality in access to social positions. Social protection policies for disadvantaged groups are generated, by which essential compensatory practices are offered to vulnerable and at risk groups.

One of the most important directions in the contemporary social welfare is that of social benefits. The Law on the National Social Work in Romania no. 47/2006 defines the national social system as a "set of institutions and measures by which the state (...) intervenes to prevent, mitigate or eliminate the temporary or permanent situations that lead to poverty and social exclusion of individuals, families or communities "(Art. 2, paragraph 1). Basically the entire law targets the mechanisms of putting into practice the ethical principles of justice, dignity, transparency, fairness, inclusion, non-discrimination, etc ... The social work system has its basic ethical values mentioned, and the whole social practice covers a corrective action for the beneficiaries. Social policies of avoiding marginalization and exclusion are redefined in Article 3 in a positive manner in order to promote the social inclusion process. Social work practice as defined in the law includes social benefits and social services.

Social services imply preventive measures or support actions in order to limit risk factors and enhance the capacity of individuals or families to cope with the state of vulnerability. Basically, the dominant ethical values that are set up social services are the client's autonomy and dignity (55). Benefits are defined as financial transfers in the form of family allowances, social benefits, allowances and facilities (Article 17 paragraph 1). Social benefits bring into practice the social policies, aimed at social justice and equity.

Principle of solidarity as deconstruction of Christian mercy

The principle of social solidarity provides the distribution of incomes in the form of a quota part from the person who carried out, by the state, through taxation, and redistribution to finance public activities (including the functioning of public institutions) and the transfer to persons belonging to disadvantaged categories, including through social work. Benefits are not a payment for work done, but the material expression of social solidarity. Social solidarity is itself an expression of the individual's responsibility to the other and to society in general. The principle of social solidarity is another form of deconstruction of charity--in the sense of mercy by replacing the paternalistic voluntary donation and moral duty based, on the principle of social solidarity based on compulsory contribution, social responsibility and equity. Secularization of social responsibility concerns the primacy of institutional as the source of the obligation of solidarity. Theoretically, a generalized welfare state concept is envisaged, which underlies the neoliberal policies in the welfare state.

From mercy to care. Deconstruction of charity in emotional plan

The ethics of care model deem that certain communities or individuals are more vulnerable and therefore require additional attention, shifting focus on the elements of relationship and interdependence that are established in the course of human existence (56).

Caring is a significant philosophical concern both in the late modernity as in postmodernity (57).

Mihaela Frunza (58) shows a series of studies that identify ethics of care items even inside of Kantian ethics. She identifies the idea of "Duties of kindness" (59) (which is placed in relation to the sympathy term to ethics of care (60).

Question is raised in this context of the possibility of reconciliation between particularism and universalism (61) and the possible deconstruction of the antinomies autonomy vs. interdependence, universality vs. context, deontology vs. teleology, rationality vs. emotion (62).

Caring has a privileged place in the Heideggerian ontology (63). The term Sorge (care--sometimes translated as restlessness) guarantees the authenticity and completeness of Dasein (64) in Heidegger's vision. Care has an anxiety form (Sorge) and one full of solicitude (Fursorge), but also of taking care (Besorgen). Care has a paternalistic form, domineering, based on respect and partnership (65). The ethics of care discusses two moralities: a female one, whose core value is safety, and a male one, founded on justice and rights. The moral ideal male is the imposition of deontic and restrictions (66). By masculinity we understand the individual engaged in a tensioned relationship with otherness (67). We understand the female voice as in communion with otherness. Thus, unlike Gilligan, we do not assign the masculine and feminine a gender opposition, but rather an opposition as to the rapport with otherness. We accept that different gender socialization can create a different context of interpretation of the relationship with otherness, predisposing masculinity in an approach based mainly on justice and the feminist predominantly based on caring (68). The ethics of justice builds sociability and establishes social contract, while the ethics of care contextualizes the social (69).

The process of socialization in Western culture prepares boys for competition and moral deliberation based on abstract rules and principles that achieve complete autonomy in Kantian moral sense, as orientation through universal ethical principles. Masculine ethical deliberation puts justice and its distribution in the centre. Female socialization aims for responsiveness to the needs of others, rather as anticipatory socialization to the role of mother. The ethics of care acquires the characteristic of an ethic of responsibility (70). Giligan (71) opines that the ethics of rights is based on the principle of justice and moral fairness understanding, while the ethics of responsibility is based on fairness and recognition of differences. None of the ethics of care or ethics of rights is superior, but the two are interchangeable. In practice the ethics of justice and the ethics of rights seem to govern the public sphere, while the ethics of care governs the private space. The term 'care' may take several meanings: nurturing, anxiety, etc.

Nel Noddings (72) identifies two sources of ethical action: the natural emotional response as a sense of care, and the memory of care received during self-care and the moral construction of the ideal self (73). The problem that Noddings articulated is the way in which individuals engage in caring interactions (74). The author identifies sympathy as emotional sharing and "sympathize" (feeling with) as state's own care and capacity to attract emotional attention in the care process. The author contrasts sympathy to empathy, the principle formulated by Carl Rogers, which Noddings (75) understands as being masculine and Western (76). The most common definition in the literature of care is formulated by Held (77) as a social practice doubled of normative ideals. The ethics of care persuades on listening to the other voices from the deontological perspective, the consequentialist and liberal choosing to be deaf. The sense of caring for each other in the fulfillment of the self is a revolutionary postmodern return to the Christian ethics (78). The voice of compassion translates in the professional ethicist meaning of sec. XX evangelical teaching, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." We understand the sacrifice is speaking about Jesus Christ as the very paradigm of justice that makes vulnerable the people in need of care. Care is spiritually and simultaneously pity and sacrifice (79). The Christian ethics of care, as expressed in the evangelical teachings, consists in helping those suffering, in prison, and humble. Of course, the traditional interpretation of the sacrifice of the lamb as atonement can be a hermeneutical level (80). But in history the scapegoat is the stranger, or in Gilligan's terms, the other voice to be oppressed (81).

But we are against mercy interpreted as mercy. We prefer the translation of the term mercy as compassion, meaning living together with or co-living the care state. By mercy we refer here to charity, is part of the ethics of justice paradigm. It is right to help someone in need because they produce such an act of social redistribution of value. Mihaela Frunza discusses the relationship between the ethics of care and the ethics of justice, following the incompatibilities or complementarities of these paradigms. The author identifies the differences between the ethics of care and the ethics of justice that may be interpreted at three levels. The first level is that of moral capacities, where conflict arises between the learning of moral principles and moral development provisions. Moral reasoning is the second level, where the conflict arises between problem solving by searching the principles that have universal applicability and the search for appropriate responses to particular cases. The third level of disagreement being the moral concepts, distinguishes moral concepts that tend to justice and fairness and concepts that tend to responsibilities and relationships (82). Ethics of care is established as applied ethics, rather than as a theoretical construct in convergence to the postmodern vision of abandoning the meta-narratives. This line falls within a deconstructive pattern, deconstructing the great universalist ethical issues, based on a set of universal principles and authentic moral values, etc. Gilligan shows that ethical universalism is nothing but a power play and at the same time a language game designed to convert feminine oppression into a universal ethical standard. The ethics of care is contextual and particular because caring is an interpersonal relationship with the otherness.

Deconstruction of charity in social action area. Professionalizing of social work

Social work is defined (83) as a professional activity of helping individuals, groups and communities to increase, to highlight or restore social functioning and to create favorable conditions to achieve the personal goals of individuals. Limiting access to resources (84) for persons or marginal groups accompanied by the lack of functional social living conditions, increases social isolation, inadequacy, and social non-integration of individuals and marginalized groups. Understanding the ethics of charity as social responsibility, we observe the two-way development of social work, which converges in the idea of social welfare, namely theory of care (85) dependent to a paternalistic model status quo's conservation and of perspective of theory of change.

The necessity of social work arises therefore from two directions: that of solving problems and dysfunctions that occur in the less privileged, and the decreasing of social pressure on society as a whole, that would come both from the marginal, as from those who feel in danger of being marginalized (86). The aim of social welfare activities (87) is to give to various categories of clients the sense of fulfilling, from the social, financial, health, occupational, recreational perspective, etc. Social work is a significant component of activities generically called "social welfare".

Social work and the theory of care

The term care is a restrictive one in its origins, but in the social welfare practice and in social protection its connotation has improved. Vasile Miftode argues that in the accepted and practiced sense of social work, customer care does not require mandatory change of his/her personality in an interrelated functionality of the social worker, client and institutions. The theory of care is a central theory of the social welfare domain, involving and exceeding the connotations and meanings of the theory of change (88).

The theory of care aims to ensure long-term customer independence, both to the individual at risk and to the family, aimed also at the degraded or degrading social environment, problem group, marginalized community (89). Agents of social control, social workers are meant to provide specific care to disadvantaged individuals, both directly and maintaining community stability and a climate, properly to normal development and prosperity of every individual or community (90).

The social worker's perspective as an agent of change, puts to practice the principle of respect for the client's autonomy. Updating customer potentials and improving the social functionality constitute intervention directions adapted to the transcultural paradigmatic structure typical of postmodern society. Social welfare regarded as "personal development" facilitator is meant to "optimize" the individual or collective social actor, in connection to their own aspirations, needs, and opportunities.

The evolution of the social work ethics

Taking into account that the values of the social work profession are directed strictly to defending and promoting the rights of the individual, we find the concept of quality of life as most suitable to highlight the success of welfare intervention. "Quality of Life" will not be viewed as an abstract concept derived from statistical analysis of indicators, but will operate directly with those indicators that are relevant to the individual, the objective (such as the individual's existence, material resources and health) and the subjective (the individual's satisfaction, emotional condition, acceptance of the situation) (91).

Frederic Reamer (92) exposes the historical emergence of basic social work values, ethical values development in social work having four distinct phases:

Morality period--started in the late nineteenth century when social work was inaugurated as a profession, the main concern being customer morality, morality and ethics and the social work profession. The primary mission of social work was represented by poverty alleviation (93).

Values period--is related to the morality period, being marked the social work practice, achieving attempts to develop a consensus on the key values of social work. This period is defined of early development of formal ethical guidelines, which were based on the core values of the profession, establishing a set of core values that have served the profession as a basic structure, values such as dignity, uniqueness, and respect for individual self-determination, autonomy, respect, justice, equality and individualization (94).

Ethical theory and decision-making period--it makes the transition to values and ethical issues, manifesting a great interest in applied ethics and professional ethics. In addition to social areas such as medicine, journalism, law, engineering, health care, attention started to be given to ethics, there are many training courses and professional ethics or applied ethics are introduced in the curriculum, numerous scientific events, conferences and publications were developed in this field. Bioethics is growing significantly in the United States, with its development built and specialized centers and associations, like the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (95).

Ethical standards and management period--a period characterized by the development of social ethics in the United States and social workers' increased understanding and awareness of ethical issues. It develops the ethical codes of the profession. Important scientific literatures based on ethics emerge in order to prevent malpractice, liability risk and risk management strategies developed to protect clients and prevent ethics complaints and ethical trials (96).

Approach of contemporary social ethics is based on ethical principlism. The most common principles that influence the social work practice are: the principle of autonomy, non- maleficence, beneficence (97) together with the principle of justice and fidelity.

The principle of autonomy--Involves the subject to decide freely on one's own person and activities of active or passive involvement. We consider that the whole practice of social work aims to increase the level of autonomy of the individual in relation to social environment. McLeod (98) made a critique of the principle of autonomy as a model Feminist Ethics and Ethics of Care, showing that the social functioning of the individual is interdependent rather than independent. We believe that autonomy is actually a long process of social construction based on perpetual negotiations on the interpretations of the subject in interaction with the social environment.

The principle of non-maleficence--Represents the interdiction of social practice from which the subject suffers a reduction in the quality of life. This principle implies the need to assess any potential risks of intervention and to eliminate or reduce them to the maximum level possible.

The principle of beneficence--Involves targeting intervention goals to improve the quality of customer life.

The principle of justice--McLeod (99) inspired by the theories of John Rawls (100) follows the correct distribution of resources and services, taking into account, on the one hand, fairness and on the other the need for affirmative action.

The principle of fidelity--Represents the professional's need to act for the benefit of the client and of the agency he/she works for, being able to rely on the professionalism of the social worker.

Deconstruction of charity at the subjectivity level. Appreciative Social Theology

The appreciative development process of individuals is based on co-creation of reality in negotiation process interpretations. We find the Christian archetype of meaning co-creation in the Christian presence in the Church, as a spiritual community in which God's grace is obvious. Man-God Communion, in terms of the theandric of which Tudor Ghideanu (101) speaks, represents the spiritual archetype of communication itself, which generates the ultimate meaning of Christian life, salvation. The Christian communicates through prayers and the confession mystery achieved. At the same time God Himself communicates through the mystery of His Incarnation, the mystery that God is visible and the presence of the Holy Spirit makes possible the knowledge and love of God.

Vicki Hammel (102) states that: "Appreciative Philosophy shifts the view toward the strengths and positive Qualities of "being". Through the lens of Appreciative Philosophy, appreciative theology reveals Co-Creation emerging as the collaborative Divine/Human life-giving energy that catalyses and empowers transformation. The paper posits an "appreciative theology" that is grounded in Appreciative Philosophy, and in particular, examines how Co-creation impacts the areas of sustainability and leadership" (103). Spiritual roots of appreciativeness can be found in the guidance of St. Paul, to perform righteous deeds, pure, worthy of being appreciated: "Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard. Then the God of peace will be with you" (104). Christianity is not essentially a pessimistic religion that the believer must carry the cross of one's own existence. Conversely, the Christian enjoys the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ salvation (105). Communion with God is such an anthropological bridge between vocation and the theology of humility, which is manifested in terms of direct social action. Anthropological restoration and helping others in distress is the key of practices that are the object of spiritual counselors and social theology. Christian faith does not recommend a lifetime pursuit of happiness understood as selfish pleasure but a search for happiness as sharing of the kingdom of heaven in Jesus Christ.

Social theology involves helping others not based on social policy on an ethics of justice and equity or on a utilitarian one, but the Christ ethics of happiness virtue.

Social theology should be practiced from the love of the other. This love involves understanding of the other as a living icon of the image and likeness of God. Christian counseling practice conducted in a "deficient paradigm" through which we see the other as a vice, despair and desolation prey, and is contrary to serving God, by serving the other. Rather, an appreciative practice that starts from unconditional acceptance and appreciation of the other, of what the individual has the most valuable, constitute in our opinion the manner in which to relate to peers in the counseling process.

Christian social theology is a practice originated in Christian values 106 or faith-based practice (107). Appreciative practice in social theology allows to a Christian the counseling to overcome the charitable activity to help the other, in a deeply transformer activity, which is based on Christian ethical virtues.


Starting from the thesis that deconstruction of the charity process, the religious value which regulates in a Christian manner the reference to the other, is the foundation of restorative social policy and professionalized social work, we followed the deconstruction of charity by exposing a series of hermeneutic codes that allow understanding of social policies, including the providential welfare state in terms of instances to establish an ethical sense, as mentioned by Foucault.

Social policies and social work are direct applications of ethical values in social practice. The deconstruction of charity made possible the emergence of social practice as a form of social action. Deconstruction of charity does not eliminate spirituality from the welfare sphere; there is rather a constant dialogue between a spiritualist perspective, represented by the social doctrine of social theology and faith-based organizations, and the secular social work founded on the principles of a right to welfare, and on effective implementation of justice as fairness and social responsibility. Social work has a corrective function in social context.


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Antonio Sandu

Mihail Kogalniceanu University, Iasi; Lumen Research Center in Social and

Humanistic Sciences, Iasi, Romania.


Ana Caras

Lumen Research Center in Social and Humanistic Sciences; Alexandra loan Cuza

University, Iasi, Romania.



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(2) Michel Foucault, A supraveghea si a pedepsi, (Bucurefti: Editura Humanitas, 1995).

(3) Jean-Frangois Lyotard, Political Writings. Transl. Readings, B. & Geiman KP. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1993).

(4) Michel Foucault, A supraveghea si a pedepsi.

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(8) Jurgen Habermas, Constiinta morala si actiune comunicativa, (Bucuresti: Editura ALL, 2000).

(9) Cristina Gavrilovici and Liviu Oprea, "Clinical ethics, research ethics and community ethics--the moral triad of nowadays society", Revista Romana de Bioetica, 11, 3 (2013): 55-57.

(10) Alba Kruja, "Entrepreneurship and Knowledge-Based Economies", Revista Romaneasca pentru Educatie Multidimensionala 5, 1 (June, 2013): 7-17. See also Sandu Frunza, "Increasing competence--an ethical duty of civil servants", Transylvanian Review of Administrative Sciences, Special Issue, (2012): 32-41.

(11) Antonio Sandu, Appreciative ethics, (Iasi: Editura Lumen, 2012).

(12) Antonio Sandu and Ana Caras, ... (Christian) Bioethical Dilemmas in Using Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnologies", Journal for the Study of Religions and ideologies, vol. 12, issue 35 (Summer 2013): 158-177.

(13) Antonio Sandu, Etica si deontologie profesionala, (Iasi: Editura Lumen, 2012), 25.

(14) Antonio Sandu, Dimensiuni etice ale comunicarii in postmodernitate, (Iasi: Editura Lumen; 2009).

(15) Mihaela Frunza, Sandu Frunza, Catalin Vasile Bobb, Ovidiu Grad, "Altruistic living unrelated organ donation at the crossroads of ethics and religion. A case study", Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 9, issue 27, (2010): 3- 24.

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Date:Dec 22, 2013
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