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Old Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Fahad Khan Jadoon's Avatar
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Post Culture of poverty

I have come across several well-educated, well-off people lately who seem to believe that the poor somehow “want to be poor” or are simply “too stupid” to escape poverty. Members of my own family, friends from school, colleagues at office, the so-called “development workers” and professionals who think the beggars they are surrounded by at the traffic signals and those lining up at charity handouts this Ramzan are outright lazy. The arguments forwarded seem to suggest as if there is a “culture of poverty” and the poor suffer from this culture.

As silly as it may seem to argue against this line of reasoning, I invariably get embroiled in exchanges, stressing that failed economic and social policies followed by successive governments in this country are creating poverty and act as barriers to poverty reduction. The result is persistently the same: these folks tend to switch off and find something better to do than listening to me. Perhaps it is not a “culture of poverty” which perpetuates poverty but instead this “culture of apathy.”

The rising poverty is a result of deepening societal apathy towards poverty and poor. It is indeed, a spectacular failure on part of so many people therein – voters, politicians and development experts and workers – that poverty exists and persists. However, those who are really responsible, would not even want to talk about it.

My middle-class compatriots have yet to come to grips with the reality that poverty in Pakistan is caused by myriad factors important amongst them a lack of real discourse on poverty. What we need to understand is: What constitutes poverty? How is it measured by the successive regimes whereby poverty figures always successfully make those primarily responsible for it looking good? What really are the causes of poverty? And the likes.

It amazes me how our poverty calculators, and indeed people like you and I who buy these figures without a wince, are isolated from reality and how little an idea do they have about poor, poverty or even how to count them. Whatever poverty figures the government economists may tell, I know when poverty is on the rise. There is more poverty when there is increased beggary, deprivation, suicides and lawlessness in the society

While economists describe poverty incidence as the percentage of poor compared to the total population, poverty cannot be described – it can only be felt. One knows about poverty when he is hungry and cannot purchase food, he and his children want new clothes but they can’t purchase them, he’s sick and doesn’t have money to have medicine, he wants to send his children to school but can’t bear educational expenditures.

We also need to focus on the nexus of poverty and human well being. As a health professional I am keen to look at the vicious cycle of poverty and ill-health which one would argue should necessitate health services to be addressed to the poor and needy. However, even a cursory look into health care system indicates that only one third of all those who need or seek care utilise public health services. The remaining two-thirds end up seeking care from private sector by paying from their own pocket.
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bilal solangi (Wednesday, June 12, 2019)
Old Wednesday, June 12, 2019
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You are absolutely right, poverty is a social plague caused by bad policies, national level contingencies, and attitude of 'have' towards 'have not'

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The culture of poverty concept was developed in the USA during the 1960s primarily through the best- selling ethnographic realist publications of the cultural anthropologist Oscar Lewis, who tape-recorded eloquent life histories of the urban poor. He reprinted numerous versions of his definition of the term ‘culture of poverty’ in short journal articles and also in the introductions to his books on family life among Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans living in shanty towns and ghettos (Lewis, 1961, 1966a,b, 1967). Lewis’s culture of poverty struck an academic identity politics nerve, and at the turn of the millennium the concept remained enmired in a bitter polemic over how to analyze and engage politically the persistence of poverty in the midst of postindustrial plenty.

The Cultural Deprivation or Culture of Poverty Explanation
Cultural deprivation and culture of poverty theorists believe that low-income students achieve poorly in school because the socialization in their families and communities does not equip them with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and cultural capital essential for academic success in mainstream society. Unlike genetic theorists such as Herrnstein and Murray (1994), who believe that low-income students and ethnic-minority students do not achieve well in school because of their genes, these theorists believe that low-income students can achieve if they are provided with early childhood experiences that will compensate for their family and community socialization.

A cultural deprivation curriculum intervention prototype is the DISTAR program developed by Bereiter and Englemann (1966). It is designed to help low-income students develop reading and writing skills using behavioral modification teaching techniques. The Culturally Deprived Child by Riessman (1962) was an influential book that exemplifies the cultural deprivation explanation. The culture of poverty concept is epitomized in La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty by Lewis (1965). The cultural deprivation and culture of poverty explanation has re-emerged today as ‘children at risk.’

Critics of the cultural deprivation/culture of poverty explanation describe how it essentializes the characteristics of specific groups, blames the victims for their marginalized status, and does not focus on the ways in which these groups are victims of political and socioeconomic structures. It focuses on changing students rather than changing schools or the sociopolitical structure.

Culture of Poverty: Critique
While the phrase ‘culture of poverty’ is firmly associated with Oscar Lewis' work, as well as with the policies of the Johnson era, it can easily be placed in a long tradition of conceptualizing the poor and imagining policies to help and control them. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Malthus and Mayhew had provided the intellectual justification for viewing poverty as a problem to be controlled (Himmelfarb, 1971, 1983). They developed many of the methods and starting points later embraced by Lewis. This included descriptive statistics of the distribution of ‘traits’ (rate of prostitution, alcoholism, unwed motherhood, etc.) across populations and correlations often interpreted as causations. This paralleled much nineteenth-century social theory purporting to explain other differences in human populations on biological or evolutionary bases.

This content is copied from sciencedirect. I have shared this beacuse I found it useful and it is explained well.
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