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From inaptitude for work to trial of the self: The vicissitudes of meanings of disability

Abstract : Using the categorisations which have helped to build the field of disability in France, this article analyses the meanings of disability and how they shifted over the 20th century. Our Aim : is to identify, from a holistic perspective, both the conditions under which they were produced and the major paradigms in which they were rooted. The initial category thus originates in the moral division of poverty which was part of mediaeval Christianity and which, in the 14th century, put forward inaptitude for work as a legitimate reason for assistance. At the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century, solidarism and the principle of social debt opened the way for redress for the damage caused by society: financial redress to begin with, then redress in the sense of “rehabilitation” within the context of a war economy. Breaking down the boundaries of inaptitude, these new procedures made a distinction between people disabled through war or accidents at work – which came under the heading of collective responsibility – and disabled civilians. Within their groups, the latter therefore produced and distributed a new meaning: disability “as an épreuve of the self”, a category of experience which was to find support from various vulgates of human and social sciences. However, the result was different acceptances of the meaning of épreuve; although these had in common the fact that they focused attention on the person, they were accompanied by distinct modalities for the social treatment of disability. The vicissitudes of meanings of disability “as an épreuve” illustrate the movement of reflexivity and subjectivity which drive our late modernity and its effects on current social policies and practices.
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https://hal-cnrs.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03477231
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Submitted on : Monday, December 13, 2021 - 1:22:50 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 1, 2022 - 11:10:57 AM

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Isabelle Ville. From inaptitude for work to trial of the self: The vicissitudes of meanings of disability. Alter: European Journal of Disability Research / Revue européenne de recherche sur le handicap, 2010, 4 (1), pp.59-71. ⟨10.1016/j.alter.2009.11.007⟩. ⟨hal-03477231⟩

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