Power and the durability of poverty: a critical exploration of the links between culture, marginality and chronic poverty.

Abstract

Building on approaches that adopt what might be called a 'relational' approach to poverty, and using recurring case-studies from India, this paper examines poverty as an outcome of the historical and contemporary dynamics of capitalism ― including processes of accumulation, dispossession, differentiation and exploitation; but equally, considers the social mechanisms, categories and identities which perpetuate inequality and facilitate relations of exploitation. The paper adopts an approach (drawing on Charles Tilly) that combines an examination of exploitation with Weberian ideas of social closure. In this way, the paper aims to show that 'adverse incorporation' and 'social exclusion' are not alternative or competing frameworks: the excluded are simultaneously dominated and excluded. A second aim is to integrate a multi-dimensional understanding of power ― as domination, patronage, and political representation ― into the analysis of poverty, drawing on the work of Steven Lukes, Pierre Bourdieu, and Arjun Appadurai; and a third aim is to see how incorporating power can help analyse different approaches to poverty reduction ranging from anti-poverty programmes and political decentralisation to mainstream party political processes. In developing the argument the paper focuses on the interlocking circumstances of chronically poor cultivators living in deforested uplands, indebted migrant casual labourers on the urban fringes, and the social identities of adivasis and dalits ('tribals' and 'untouchables') subordinated in Indian society. This both highlights particular spatial and social inequalities in India, and reflects on the cultural construction of power; its effects on material well-being and agency, and on the opportunities and constraints in struggles for political representation.

Citation

CPRC Working Paper 107, ISBN: 978-1-906433-06-2, 60 pp.

Power and the durability of poverty: a critical exploration of the links between culture, marginality and chronic poverty.

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