Although the charity thrift shop is typically treated as an apolitical nonprofit entity, it plays a significant cultural and political role in the contemporary practice of governing. In this article, I am concerned with how well-being is distributed through the governance of time and labor as it intersects with the circulation of the thrift shop commodities that fund the welfare mix. I am simultaneously concerned with how these practices of power—which are frequently degrading for those who have few options other than to interface with the institutions within which these practices originate—come to be rehabilitated as charity, in a cycle that mirrors the circulation of consumer goods upon which they depend for funding. I draw on critical theories of philanthropy, consumer culture, the welfare state, and time, as they contribute to our understanding of the inculcation of ascetics in relationship to contemporary practices of power. I substantiate these claims through an exploration of how the charity thrift shop belongs to a circuit of ascetic production involving the degradation and rehabilitation of consumer goods, which then, through the funding of training programs that belong to a particular temporal political economy, dictates the ability of many to achieve well-being by managing the degradation and rehabilitation of individuals.
Thrift Shop Philanthropy: Charity, Value, and Ascetic Rehabilitation
Patricia Mooney Nickel is assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs and core faculty in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) program at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include critical theory, cultural politics, philanthropy, the voluntary sector, global governance, and the political economy of knowledge production. She is the author of Culture, Politics, and Governing: The Contemporary Ascetics of Knowledge Production (2015), Public Sociology: Governance, Politics and Power (2012), and the editor of North American Critical Theory after Postmodernism: Contemporary Dialogues (2012).