I can never be thankful enough

From The Angel in the House:

“In Coelebs [in Search of a Wife, a novel by Hannah More], Charles, the hero of the novel, speaks to the Stanleys’ lame gardener, who details all the kind things Lucilla and her family have done for him. The gardener ends his recital with, ‘At Christmas they give me a new suit from top to toe, so that I want for nothing but a more thankful heart, for I never can be grateful enough to God and my benefactors.'[…]According to Peter M. Blau, who applies Mauss’s observations [on gift economies] to a capitalist society in his Exchange and Power in Social Life, the dual obligation to receive and to repay a gift ‘makes it possible for largess to become a source of subordination over others, that is, for the distribution of goods and services to others to be a means of establishing superiority over them.’ Lucilla’s charity, then, is a gift that marks her generosity, but it is also a way of establishing superiority and power over those socially beneath her, as well as changing the meaning of the exchange of goods and services between them. The gardener, as an employee on the Stanley estate, receives pay for work done, and, under the terms of a market economy, he could be seen as a ‘free’ agent exchanging his labor for a wage. By extending charity toward him, the Stanleys displace the market economy with a gift economy that obligates the gardener and makes his labor insufficient as a repayment for goods received. Thus the ‘economy of charity,’ based on the type of gift exchange in wihich there is a ‘unilateral supply of benefits,’ makes the poor or laboring-class recipients of philanthropy ‘obligated to and dependent on those who furnish [those benefits] and thus subject to their power,’ whether the poor are dependents on a rural estate or urban laborers. Of course, if women are the primary agents of charitable giving, this way of defining their activity puts them in a position of considerable power and authority over those they ‘serve’–a position they would not normally hold in customary market exchanges.”

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