Tuesday, 17 August 2010

An end to poverty?, by Gareth Stedman Jones

This is a book that is well worth reading. While the structure and language used is based a little too much of traditional Marxism for my taste (as this tend to polarize history and ideas) the book is written by a person with knowledge and brings up a number of interesting observations.

I found the history around the creation of the social security system was particularly interesting. Fist in terms of bringing up ideas that most people find “utopic” and “unrealistic”, but even more interestingly and something that is seldom discussed/described, how new structures were created. How different groups that did not trust each other had to create a structure in order to deliver on something they did agree on in principle is something that anyone who is interested in transformative change can learn from.

Another very interesting aspect of the book is how different ideas changed as they where picked up by different interest groups before they got such momentum that they could affect actual policy discussions. The interaction between groups, structures and ideas is described in a very interesting way. So is the non linear history where ideas can emerge, become strong and then die/go into hibernation for a long time before re-surfacing again.

Finally it is healthy to reflect on the fact that it was not long ago since people thought that poverty was a natural part of a society. Looking at the world today it is surprisingly many who seem to be willing to reintroduce the idea of poverty as a natural part of society. For those engaged in poverty reduction it might be valuable to not only look at the incremental discussions (level of aid, area of focus, etc), but also see how the underlying discourse is changing.

Maybe someone could set up a webpage that track what individuals and organizations that are talking about poverty as something that society have to live with. In a time where the natural resources are under pressure it is highly likely that some groups/companies would prefer to see poverty as something natural, rather than question their own lifestyle/business models.

On the following link Gareth is discussing some aspects of his book: Link