Poverty, World Hunger: Time for a relational approach

Published on Axis of Logic (first on teleSUR), by Ezequiel Adamovsky, Nov 5, 2014.

Announcements by the World Bank, the IMF; and other neoliberal think tanks, that poverty is decreasing and the middle class increasing is just a fantasy that stems from ideologically biased research programs and conceptions of poverty … //

… All this, of course, is nothing but a fantasy that stems from ideologically biased research programs and conceptions of poverty. In the past decades, international organizations and think tanks have produced a subtle shift in the way we understand poverty and class differences. We used to think of both as relations: there is no poverty in itself, but only in relation to wealth; one can only be of “lower” condition by contrast to the “higher” class. Moreover, it was evident that any improvement in the lives of people of the lower classes and of poor countries was only possible as the result of changes in the economy, in taxation, in international commercial and financial flows, etc. and generally in the realm of politics. To put it in other words, resolving the situation of the poor involved reforming society, including (and especially) the world of the wealthy, by putting an end to the concentration of power and capital in fewer hands … //

… While several groups of academics throughout the world are trying to counter this common sense, a recent initiative is worthy of attention. On 10thOctober hundreds of students, graduates, activists and professors gathered in Seattle to formally launch the Relational Poverty Network (RPN), an inclusive, open network of scholars, teachers and activists aimed at fostering collaborations across academic disciplines, places and types of poverty knowledge and at engaging in education, media outreach and work with community partners. The RPN was co-founded by Victoria Lawson and her colleague in the Geography department of the University of Washington, Sarah Elwood, accompanied by a Steering Committee of scholars from the US, Argentina, South Africa and the UK. It was designed as “a broad experiment bringing sciences and humanities together to build alternative understandings of impoverishment and forge social alliances to address poverty and inequality” (http://depts.washington.edu/relpov ). As Lawson and Elwood explained in their opening remarks, the aim of the RPN is non other than to create a new field of knowledge, to establish and legitimate a body of knowledge that can inform action and “offer new ideas that can reshape widely circulating cultural and political narratives about inequality and about who is poor, why they are poor, and how to act on poverty”. As Lawson also argued, the initiative is about “re-politicizing poverty”: the RPN “understands poverty as ‘overdetermined’ –as arising from a set of interlocking processes including materialist workings of capitalism around the globe and in postcolonies, cultural politics of representation, processes of racialization, gender, nationality and ability and processes of governing, norming, and of making common sense”.

Needless to say, global poverty policies will only change as a result of social struggles, lower class mass mobilization, political organizing, and strong alliances between the poor, the workers and at least part of the middle classes. But academics in the social sciences and the humanities can also contribute with better conceptual tools and critically-oriented research. The current global situation demands that the academic world rethinks poverty as a relational issue, engages in public debates and challenges the conventional wisdom (and the “experts” an authorized voices that shape it). Of course, thinking of poverty as a relation is hardly a new idea. Social movements have had that notion as a key tenet of their demands and of their understanding of the world for a long time, and there is a long tradition of critical academic thinking and research in this regard. However, there is still a long way to go. While the economic dimension of poverty as a process has received more attention, its inter-relation to other processes –such as racialization, criminalization, gendering, discrimination on basis of ability, citizenship, age and generation, etc.– still calls for better analytical tools and empirical evidence.

(full text).

Some Related Links:

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The Fight for Abortion Rights Just Got a Whole Lot Harder, on Mother Jones, by Molly Redden, Nov 6, 2014: Activists thought they had a chance to expand reproductive rights. The Red Wave put an end to that;

Sowing seeds for the next farm revolution, on live mint, Nov 6, 2014;

2014 – The Year of Koch, on Mother Jones, by Andy Kroll, Nov 6, 2014: And six other key takeaways on big money in the 2014 elections;

Nowhere to hide, we’re everywhere, Global Million Mask March as it happened (VIDEOS), on Russia Today RT, Nov 6, 2014: Protests against mass surveillance, govt austerity and social injustice have taken to the streets in over 400 cities worldwide. Dubbed the Million Mask March, the third annual act of mass civil disobedience was organized by the activist group Anonymous …;

Merde! Protesting French farmers dump tons of manure at govt buildings (VIDEO), on Russia Today RT, Nov 6, 2014;

The Kids Need Cash, on Economic Intelligence, by Clio Chang, Nov 5, 2014: A simple way to reduce child poverty is to give families cash.

Alternative liberal solutions to economic inequality, on openDemocracy.net, by STUART WHITE, Nov 5, 2014: The rich tradition of alternative liberalism has much to offer by way of solutions to inexorably widening inequality—as social movements are beginning to realise;

Tax assistance program slated for Niagara County, on Buffalo Business First, by Allissa Kline, Nov 5, 2014;

Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated Reports Third Quarter and First Nine Months 2014 Results, on Business Wire, Nov 4, 2014;

At last we know exactly how they waste our cash – Get ready for the taxpayers’ revolt, on Mail Online, by Jonathan Isaby, Nov 4, 2014;

The recession may be over, but food bank use is still climbing in Canada, on The Globe and Mail, Nov 4, 2014;

La classe moyenne ne s’est pas effritée, dans le journal de Montréal, par Carl Renaud, Nov 4, 2014; http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2014/11/04/la-classe-moyenne-ne-sest-pas-effritee

… and this:

Mike Oldfield:

… und noch dies:

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