Caring for the Poor
Islamic and Christian Benevolence in a Liberal World
Based on several years of fieldwork in Egypt and Turkey, Caring for the Poor tells the stories of charity providers and volunteers. The book also places their stories within the overall development of Islamic ethics. Muslim charity, Tuğal argues, has interacted with Christian and secular Western ethics over the centuries, which themselves have a conflict-ridden and still evolving history. The overall arch that connects all of these distinct elements is (a combined and uneven) liberalization. Liberalization tends to transform care into a cold, calculating, and individualizing set of practices. Caring for the Poor meticulously documents this insidious process in Egypt and Turkey, while also drawing attention to its limits and contradictions (by using the American case to highlight the contested nature of liberalization even in its world leader). However, as historians have shown, charitable actors have intervened in decisive ways in the rise and demise of social formations. Tuğal raises the possibility, especially through his study of two controversial Turkish organizations, that Islamic charity might appropriate elements of liberalism to shift the world in a post-liberal direction.
Table of Contents
1. Generosity as an alternative: is giving a challenge to the market logic?
2. The genealogy of Islamic and Christian ethics: from renunciation and redistribution to interdependence
3. The world-historical revolution in ethics: the dismantling of interdependence and the rise of the liberal subject
4. Comprehensive religion: communitarian associations in Egypt
5. Mobilizing Volunteers on Rocky Terrain: Neoliberal Benevolence in Egypt
6. Walking the tightrope between professionalism and tebliğ: Turkey’s neoliberal associations
7. Punching above their weight: Turkey’s communitarian and redistributive associations
Conclusion: Combined and Uneven Liberalization
Cihan Tuğal is an Associate Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. He works on mobilization, socioeconomic change, and religion. Tuğal’s first book Passive Revolution (2009) studied pro-capitalist Islam and its popularization among the poor. In his second book The Fall of the Turkish Model (2016), Tuğal analyzed Islamic movements and regimes in Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Iran.
"This is a remarkable book on a scarcely researched topic. Focusing on Turkey and Egypt, Caring for the Poor offers a comparative study of Islamic and Christian charitable ethics and the non-market economies arising therefrom. At a time of cultural reductionism and Islamophobia, Caring for the Poor is a particularly timely book and must be read by all those interested in countering the ideology of the clash of civilizations, which, in recent times, has been flaunting a renewed viciousness." - Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Distinguished Legal Scholar of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and author of Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide
"This scholarly study of the ethical transformations of charity from early times to today is an attempt to analyze the emergence of what Cihan Tugal calls 'neoliberal subjectivity' – first in Euro-America, and subsequently in the Middle East. The book contains a rich account of the development of Islamist charity organizations in modern Egypt and Turkey based on the author’s own fieldwork. Most thought provokingly, this work demonstrates how central the history of an apparently marginal social practice can be for understanding major problems of our world. Caring for the Poor is a welcome contribution to an important question and deserves to be widely read." - Talal Asad, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, Graduate Center, City University of New York.