Empires of charity : imperial legitimacy and profitable charity in colonial Spanish America
Title: Empires of charity : imperial legitimacy and profitable charity in colonial Spanish America
Author: GRAFE, Regina
Citation: New global studies, 2018, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 131-155
This article investigates the institutionalization and the practices of charity that sustained imperial rule in the early modern Spanish Empire. The article proposes that the polycentric Spanish Empire of the 16th to 18th centuries faced a fundamental challenge in terms of justifying the extension of power beyond its original territory of legitimization through custom and (invented) history. This challenge was dealt with through recourse to an ideology of good governance in corporate society. It institutionalized differences across race/caste, urban/rural, professional, gender and other categories in collectives that held part of a layered and fragmented sovereignty. But unlike its modern successor empires and nation states, it did not have to rely systematically on the essentialization of difference. Thus, good governance could legitimize the extension of hegemony beyond the original territory of political legitimization and charity played a central role in this. A material caritative complex sui generis linked the moral economy of charity, which legitimized local elites, with their own financing needs and those of the imperial polity via the financial acumen of religious and charitable institutions.
Published Online: 2018-06-27
Type of Access: openAccess
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