The Poor Essay: The Structural Aspects Of Poverty

analytical Essay
2554 words
2554 words

How can there be so much misery and insecurity in the midst of such abundance? One of the first things we see is that poverty doesn’t exist all by itself. It is simply one end of an overall distribution of income and wealth in society as a whole. Poverty is both a structural aspect of the system and consequence of how the system is organized and how people participate in it.

The system we have for producing and distributing wealth is capitalist. It is organized in ways that allow a small portion (the 1%) to control most of the capital (factories, machinery, tools) used to produce wealth. This encourages the gaining of wealth and income by the. It also leaves a relatively small portion of the total of income and wealth to be divided among …show more content…

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that poverty is one end of an overall distribution of income and wealth in society as a whole.
  • Explains that the system of producing and distributing wealth is capitalist and allows a small portion to control most of the capital (factories, machinery, tools) used to produce wealth.
  • Explains that capitalism generates poverty in other ways. it places a high value on competition and efficiency, which motivates companies and managers to control costs by keeping wages as low as possible.
  • Explains that decisions are a normal consequence of capitalism's system, paths of least resistance, and have terrible effects on tens of millions of people.
  • Analyzes how racism continues to hobble millions of people through poor education, isolation in urban ghettos, prejudice, discrimination, and the disappearance of industrial jobs that enabled many generations of white european immigrants to climb out of poverty.
  • Argues that widespread poverty is inevitable in an economic system that sets the terms for how wealth is produced and distributed. public debate about poverty and policies to deal with it focus almost entirely on the latter with almost nothing about the former.
  • Analyzes charles murray's book losing ground as a classic example of the conservative approach. he reviews thirty years of federal antipoverty programs and concludes that poverty must not be caused by social factors.
  • Analyzes how murray argues that poverty is caused by failures of individual initiative and effort, and changing them is the only effective remedy.
  • Argues that the confusion lies in how we think about individuals and society, and about poverty as an individual condition and as a social problem.
  • Opines that sociologically, it ignores the fact that social life is shaped both by the nature of systems and how people participate. changing how individuals participate may affect outcomes for some.
  • Explains that income is distributed according to the results of a footrace in the united states. the fastest fifth gets 48 percent of the income to divide up, while the slowest fifth divides 4 percent.
  • Explains that if we look at the slowest fifth of the population and ask, "why are they poor?" an obvious answer is, “they didn’t run as fast as everyone else. if they ran faster, they’d do better.”
  • Analyzes how the system uses unbridled competition to determine who gets fancy cars and nice houses, who has a place to live or access to health care, and distributes income and wealth in ways that promote increasing concentrations among those already having the most.
  • Opines that learning to run faster may keep you or me out of poverty, but it won't get rid of it itself. to do that, we have to change the system along with how people participate in it.
  • Argues that people can argue about whether chronic widespread poverty is morally acceptable or what an acceptable level of inequality might look like, but if we want to understand where poverty comes from, what makes it such a stubborn feature of social life, we have to begin with the simple sociological fact that patterns
  • Argues that murray's greatest mistake is to misinterpret the failure of federal antipoverty programs. he assumes that federal programs actually target the social causes of poverty.
  • Explains that if anti-poverty programs have failed, it's not because the idea that poverty is socially caused is wrong. they've failed because policymakers don't understand what makes it social.
  • Explains that anti-poverty programs hold individuals responsible by assuming that financial success is solely a matter of individual qualifications and behavior. they get people to run faster by providing training and motivation.
  • Analyzes how some people rise out of poverty by improving their competitive advantage, while others sink into it when their advantages no longer work and they get laid off or their company relocates to another country or gets swallowed up in a merger.
  • Analyzes how individuals rise and fall in the class system. the huge gap between the wealthy and everyone else and the steady proportion of people living in poverty remains the same.
  • Argues that welfare payments, food stamps, housing subsidies, and medicaid all soften poverty's impact, but they do little about the steady supply of people living in poverty.
  • Analyzes how murray argues that welfare programs are like doctors giving bleeding patients transfusions without repairing the wounds. he's right, but not for the reasons he offers.
  • Argues that liberals and conservatives are locked in a tug of war between two individualistic solutions to problems that are only partly about individuals.
  • Opines that social problems are more than an accumulation of individual woes. they must include social solutions that take into account how economic and other systems work and identify paths of least resistance that produce the same patterns and problems year after year.

People are poor because there’s something lacking in them, and changing them is therefore the only effective remedy. From this he suggests doing away with public solutions such as affirmative action, welfare, and income support systems, including “AFDC, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and the rest. It would leave the working-aged person with no recourse whatsoever except the job market, family members, friends, and public or private locally funded services.” The result, he believes, would “make it possible to get as far as one can go on one’s merit.” With the 1996 welfare reform act, the United States took a giant step in Murray’s direction by reaffirming its long-standing cultural commitment to individualistic thinking and the mass of confusion around alternatives to …show more content…

Both approaches rest on profound misunderstandings of what makes a problem like poverty ‘social.’ Neither is informed by a sense of how social life actually works as a dynamic relation between social systems and how people participate in those systems. This is also what traps them between blaming problems like poverty on individuals and blaming them on society. Solving social problems doesn’t require us to choose or blame one or the other. It does require us to see how the two combine to shape the terms of social life and how people actually live

Get Access