Discussions of chronic poverty emphasize the extent to which poverty endures because of the social relationships and structures within which particular social groups are embedded. In this sense chronic poverty is a socio-political relationship rather than a condition of assetless-ness. Understood as such, processes of social mobilization become central to any discussion of chronic poverty because they are vehicles through which such relationships are argued over in society and potentially changed. This article explores the ways in which social movements, as one form of such mobilization, might affect chronic poverty. Four domains are discussed: influencing the underlying dynamics of the political economy of poverty; challenging dominant meanings of poverty in society; direct effects on the assets of the poor; and engaging with the state. The inherent fragilities of social movements limit these contributions, the most important of which is to destabilize taken-for-granted, hegemonic discourses on poverty and its reduction.
Development and Change (2007) 38 (5) 793-818 [doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7660.2007.00434.x]