Ideologies within the Ritual. Practical Classifications of Welfare Clients in Poland.
Clients demanding assistance, who do not meet the stringent institutional criteria and ones showing symbols of consumption (belonging to the „normal” world – cars, expensive mobile phones etc.) are particularly „problematic”. By constituting interferences of the classification system (a clear division between the „included” and the „excluded”) they are „dirt”, „disorder” – as understood by Mary Douglas. They are subjected to special ritual procedures, specific tests (i.e. checking their „work ethos”) which they usually are unable to pass. This reclassification gives rise to a new client distinction – the ones „deserving” and „undeserving” of help. This division is legitimate, as it is being realised in a practical, ritual, and non-discursive form – thus accepted as obvious.
The paper is based on several months of participant observation performed in one of the welfare centres in the south of Poland, and tens of interviews conducted with social workers employed in other centres.