There has been a growing recognition among scholars that politics matters in the distribution of resources in society. However, attempts to use a political economy ‘lens’ with which to explore causes of poverty and strategies for poverty alleviation have largely ignored elites. By failing to embrace the crucial role elites play in the implementation of pro-poor policy, existing research has not produced a holistic understanding of the underlying factors which inhibit or promote action towards pro-poor policy. Historical accounts of the evolution of welfare states in the UK and USA inform us that elites prioritization of poverty reduction is driven by the extent to which elites and the poor are interdependent, such that the presence of the poor has a positive or negative impact on elite welfare. Drawing on research into elite views of poverty and the poor in Malawi, this paper argues that in formulating effective, responsive, and comprehensive strategies for poverty reduction, the role of elites must be considered in addition to the adoption of democratic, economic, and social institutions.
Kalebe-Nyamongo, C. Mutual Interdependence between Elites and the Poor. UNU-WIDER, Helsinki, Finland (2010) 25 pp. ISBN 978-92-9230-355-6 [WIDER Working Paper No. 2010/117]