Accounting and the stigma of poverty: the case of the “shameful poor” and Pio Monte Della Misericordia of Naples in the 17th and 18th century

Roberto Rossi


The Pio Monte della Misericordia (PMM) is a charity settled in Naples in the early 17th century, and it is still active in social care services and assistance to the disadvantaged. The institution was the result of the action of a group of noblemen who were part of the most powerful Neapolitan families. The action of the PMM was directed in favour of the poor, sick and dead as well as captives, following Matthew’s gospel (25, 34–36). Alongside these works, the PMM also acted in another peculiar direction, assistance to the “shameful poor”, that is, the decayed nobles—members of noble families who were no longer able to uphold the “nobles’ way of life”. This kind of poverty was considered a weakness of the system because it called into question the social stratification of feudal society of the 17th century. For this reason, the nobility reacted by founding the PMM, which collected subscriptions from its associates, who were almost all of the most powerful Neapolitan noble families, and year by year it also included the small urban and sub-urban nobility. The paper deals with Georg Simmel’s insight on poverty, analysing the role of accounting in building the relationship between rich and poor. Accounting could be considered as a tool adopted to separate the rich from the poor, insulating the rich from the stigma of poverty. Meanwhile, accounting allows the rich to benefit from their gift, guaranteeing the legitimation of wealth and the continuation of poverty within a context of social stability.

Palabras clave

Poverty; Accounting; Stigma; Naples; Mercy

Texto completo:



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