Site Loader
Rock Street, San Francisco

Sociology is, as Norbert Elias claimed, a myth buster, tearing down prevailing misconceptions and folk beliefs, not least, as Bourdieu added, the myths wielded by the dominant and perpetuating the reproduction of inequality. Sociology is thus a means of defense against symbolic domination (which amongst other things maintains material domination). (– Atkinson, et al., 2012) This essay will describe and critically analyze sociological theories on what causes poverty and.

There are two types of poverty in one hand it is absolute poverty which can be described as a condition defined by severe deprivation of basic human need, including food, drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. 
On the other hand relative poverty is a status in which people lack the minimum amount of income needed in order to maintain the average standard of living in the society in which they live. Relative poverty is examined the easiest way to measure the level of poverty in an individual country. Relative poverty is defined relative to the members of a society and. Therefore, differs across countries. Theorist Peter Townsend examined relative deprivation covering a wide range of aspects of living standards, both material and social. Townsend, (

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

 Other theorists stated that poverty is not after all an absolute but a social or cultural concept. This demands a relatively subjective view of poverty, since the unhappiness and injustice it creates, even when ill-health and malnutrition are avoided, lies in the enforced deprivation not of luxuries indeed, but of small. “How poor is too poor? comfort which others have and are seen to have, and which in the light of prevailing cultural standards are really conventional necessities”. (The Future of socialism, Crosland, 1964, p. 89)
Another ideologist said: “The reason for tackling poverty is not to create uniformity, but to push back the constraints and increase choice and freedom.” (Piachaud, D. (1982). Children and poverty) However there is not yet a clear definition of poverty.

In addition there is another theory that is believed to give a better definition to poverty. That’s the social exclusion theory. Social exclusion looks at the way that the poor are ‘shut out’ of society through more complex means than simply a lack of money: social cultural,political.
Social exclusion is the exclusion from norms and values of the social, economic, political and cultural system which integrates individuals into the fabric of society. Social exclusion can be attached to a person’s social class, race, skin color, religious affiliation, ethnic origin, educational status, childhood relationships, or appearance. Such exclusionary forms of discrimination may also apply to drug users, LGBT people, institutional care leavers, the elderly and the young. Anyone who seems to be deviate in any way from perceived norms of a population may thereby become subject to coarse or subtle forms of social exclusion.
The outcome of social exclusion is that affected individuals or communities are prevented from fully participating in the economic, social, and political life of the society in which they live.

There are several definitions of social exclusion. Social scientist Ruth Levitas describes the process of developing an agreed measure of social exclusion as ‘an ongoing struggle’. However, one definition we have been particularly mindful of while preparing this paper, is K. Duffy’s: ‘the inability to participate effectively in economic, social, political and cultural life, alienation and distance from the mainstream society.’ However, as with other factors of social exclusion, there are links with people’s social and demographic circumstances such as their educational attainment, occupation, income, type of housing, sex, ethnicity and where they live’.

When, in 1941, the government commissioned a report into the ways that Britain should be rebuilt after World War Two. Beveridge was an obvious choice to take charge. He published his report in 1942 and recommended that “the government should find ways of fighting the five ‘Giant evils’ of ‘Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’.”(  The welfare state was intended to lift people out of poverty. It made extraordinarily generous provision, delivering services of such quality that Britain became the envy of the world. Governments found, however, that welfare couldn’t lift people out of poverty. People became used to living an easy life on benefits; they became dependent. 

Another perspective towards poverty comes from functionalists. Functionalists believe that poverty is a functional part society which although unfortunate benefits society describing the poor’s suffering as a moral boost as everything works together, and what benefits the majority is best.Functionalist believe that poverty is a functional part society which although unfortunate benefits society describing the poor’s suffering as a moral boost as everything works together, and what benefits the majority is best
Theorists point our new theory about relative and absolute poverty other theorists try to find a solution and give their perspective over poverty.  One of these perspectives is the New Right perspective and is strongly influenced and supported by Marsland. Approach believes that the capitalist system is in a position to providing stability and wealth for all. However, government interference in the market place distorts the balance of supply and demand. They stress that the government should not be involved in the economy except for four main functions: “to maintain law and order, defense of the country, to provide protection from members of community who are not considered safe and the provision of help to those in need “( 

The New Right approach suggests that single parenthood is a significant cause of poverty and a drain on the welfare system. The approach states that there are an increased number of single mothers now reliant on the welfare state. This state of ‘dependency’, the New Right claims, is why benefits should be cut.
Sociologist David Marsland has adopted the new right way and does not believe that poverty is as bad as others are making out. He believes that: “People who are on low-income are results of the state being too lavish in their benefits and services rather than the individual’s inadequacy to work” (Haralambos, M. (2013). Sociology. London: Collins). A quote from Marsland: “the expectation that society, the site, the government, “they”, will look after our problems tricks us into abdicating from self-reliance and social responsibly” ( 

There are a number of criticisms of the New Right approach. Firstly, the approach blames the victims for the position they are located in. The approach does not take in to consideration as individuals circumstances that have caused them to be unemployed or a single parent. The approach generalizes all single parents as the cause of a drain of the welfare state and fails to consider other causes such as people with illness who cannot work, those with addictions who cannot work and those who simply choose not to work 

Despite the new right perspective the other most influenced and most popular theory is one of Karl Max which is called Marxism. Marxists have not been as supportive of the idea of the welfare estate as may at first be thought. According to the Marxist view, the major cause of poverty is inequality or uneven distribution of wealth and income, a principal consequence of capitalism. Webber also recognized the inequality of capitalist society; he did not attribute it essentially to capitalism. Rather, he thought that large. Rational organizations or bureaucracies, including the capitalist corporations, are responsible. These are necessarily hierarchical and unequal. He anticipated that socialist societies developed large-scale bureaucracies; they would be marked by inequality.
Classic Marxist theory has been criticized for being economically deterministic. Marx argued that ‘economic laws’ determined not only the shape of society but also the direction of history itself.
However the Communist Revolutions in Eastern Europe did not result in greater equality and freedom as Marx would have hoped. Given the failure of communism it is difficult to see what the alternative to capitalism might be. 

 Furthermore, A feminist perceptive to tackling poverty would be the downfall of the patriarchal society and equality for women better support from welfare. In the last three decades, the proportion of poor families headed by women has grown to more than 50 percent. Women face poverty due to the fact they have childcare responsibilities, especially those who are single parents. Feminists have criticized the welfare state for failing to provide adequate high-quality, affordable universal childcare for women who wanted to pursue a career. It was reported in the guardian that due to the rising cost of childcare, going to work full-time is now hardly worth-while for middle- and low income families. ” In the most extreme case – where a second earner takes a full-time job at the minimum wage – a couple who use childcare could be left just £4 a week better off with two incomes than with one” (–-its-not-enough-reduce-poverty). 
Women are oppressed by patriarchy economically, politically, socially, and psychologically; patriarchal ideology is the main means by which they are kept so. In every domain where patriarchy reigns, woman is fresh: she is marginalized, defined only by her difference from male norms and values. Critics on feminists view are that they only focus on women without including male and blaming male gender for their position and their right in the society. Thomas Hardy’s the mayor of Casterbridge once said: ” one of the problems of the feminist critique is that is male-oriented”.

However, if we search up other systems and theories which are in opposition of Marxism we find capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system is where private entities own the factors of production. The four factors are entrepreneurship, capital goods, natural resources, and. The owners of capital goods, natural resources, and entrepreneurship exercise control through companies. The individual owns his or her labour. Labour is prior to, and independent the United States is an example of capitalism, but it’s not the best. Capital is just the fruit of labour, and could never have existed if labour had not first existed. Labour is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital gets its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Abraham Lincoln. Capitalism does not permit an even flow of monetary resources. With this system, a tiny privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works.” And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are about have to have to change the system.” ( 
Furthermore, the other political system which is related to the economic structure is the social democratic approach had some influence on the Labour governments of 1964-70 and 1974-9. It influenced the introduction of comprehensive schools which replaced the tripartite system. The social democratic approach also had a big influence in the new labour welfare to work. The new deal was introduced by Labour in 1998 it was set up to reduce unemployment by providing training, subsidized employment and voluntary work to the unemployed. In 1998 national child care strategies was announced this promised early education places for all three and four year old. “In 1999 Britain’s first national minimum wage was presented. In 2002, the job centre plus was established. This is a centre where the unemployed may go to get support finding work. All of the above were all introduced to support people in society who were struggling and was a result of the Social Democratic Approach.” (, Some feminists believe that the social democratic approach emphasis on the rights of workers leads to a neglect of the rights of women, particularly in their roles as mothers and domestic laborers. Marxists believe that anything approaching equality cannot be achieved in a capitalist society and they believe that social democratic policies on welfare fail to distribute wealth and income from the wealthy to the poor. Marxists therefore, believe that social democrats not go far enough in wanting only to reform capitalism. However, Pierson argues that “the social democratic approach acknowledges both the importance of political factors and social changes such as industrialization, technological change and the development of capitalism which other perspectives do not” (Haralambos, M. (2013). Sociology. London: Collins).

To conclude, social policy and the introduction of welfare came after the war when Beveridge published his report which was very influential for the welfare state. There is not a member agreed definition of poverty, however this essay has looked at the concepts of relative and absolute poverty. There are three contrasting theories that look to explain poverty and ways to help the issue of poverty through various collective policy. The New Right approach believes that there should be minimum state input and that welfare should be privatized, whilst the social democratic approach state the opposite. They believe that in order to help people out the poverty trap. The state must support these individuals and not single them out through mean testing the welfare state. Feminists, have pointed out how there is a feminization of poverty. They argue that due to women being discriminated at work and having childcare responsibilities than this makes them more subjected to poverty than males.


Atkinson, A. and Vandenbroucke, F. (2012). Social indicators. Oxford: Oxford University Press

The Future of socialism, Crosland, 1964, p. 89

Piachaud, D. (1982). Children and poverty

Haralambos, M. (2013). Sociology. London: Collins–-its-not-enough-reduce-poverty

Post Author: admin


I'm Dora!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out