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Inequality and poverty

The ill-fitting pieces in the EU’s development partnerships

Riina Pilke and Marikki Stocchetti

English abstract: This article reviews the main policy guidelines set by the European Union (EU) for eradicating poverty and inequality in the context of its development cooperation partnerships. Drawing on the structure of the EU’s treaty, the EU’s official development policies since 2005, and the related European Commission documents over the past five years, it examines the conceptions of poverty and inequality and how the EU translates them into operational differentiation. The scope of the differentiated cooperation encompasses different types of developing countries, including a variety of both low-income countries (LICs) and middle-income countries (MICs). The article argues that differentiation poses a challenge to the EU’s internal development policy coherence. While the EU has adopted a multifaceted understanding of poverty, its conception of inequality is very narrow. In addition, the authors contend that the EU lacks clear criteria for differentiation in diverse country contexts in both regards.

Spanish abstract: El propósito de este trabajo es revisar los principales lineamientos de política pública establecidos por la Unión Europea (UE) para la erradicación de la pobreza y la desigualdad en el contexto de sus asociaciones de cooperación al desarrollo. Con base en la estructura de los tratados de la UE, las políticas oficiales de desarrollo de la UE desde 2005, y los documentos relacionados de la Comisión Europea en los últimos cinco años, este artículo examina las concepciones de pobreza y desigualdad así como la traducción sistemática que hace la UE de dichos conceptos en una diferenciación funcional en sus asociaciones de cooperación al desarrollo. El alcance de la cooperación diferenciada abarca diferentes tipos de países en desarrollo, incluyendo una variedad de países con bajos y medios ingresos (LIC y MIC por sus siglas en inglés). El artículo sostiene que la diferenciación plantea un desafío a la coherencia de la política pública de desarrollo al interior de la UE. Mientras que la UE ha adoptado una comprensión multifacética de la pobreza, su concepción de la desigualdad es muy estrecha. Además, las autoras argumentan que la UE carece de criterios claros para una diferenciación que tome en cuenta las dimensiones tanto de pobreza como de desigualdad en diversos contextos de países.

French abstract: L’objectif de ce texte consiste à passer en revue les principales lignes de politique publique de l’Union Européenne (UE) en matière de lutte contre la pauvreté et des inégalités dans le cadre de son partenariat de coopération pour le développement. A partir d’une révision des traités de l’UE, des politiques officielles de développement depuis 2005 et de documents de la Commission Européenne datant des cinq dernières années, l’article évoque les conceptions de la pauvreté et des inégalités et comment l’UE les traduit par une différenciacion opérative en matière de coopération pour le développement. La portée de la coopération differenciée inclut différents types de pays en développement, y compris divers pays à revenus bas et intermédiaires. Cet article défend l’idée que la différentiation présente un défi pour la cohérence de la politique de développement au sein de l’UE. Alors que celle-ci a adopté un point de vue multifacétique de la pauvreté, sa conception des inégalités est extrêmement limitée. Ainsi, les auteures affirment que l’UE manque de critères clairs pour établir une différenciation qui prenne en compte à la fois les dimensions de la pauvreté et les inégalités dans les différents contextes nationaux.

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John R. Campbell

This article explores the relation between theory and method in three methodologically innovative studies of rural poverty. The issue is pertinent because the nature of research on poverty has shifted from small-scale qualitative studies to large surveys, and to national-scale studies that combine qualitative and quantitative methods in an effort to inform policy makers on appropriate poverty reduction strategies. The interest in combined methods holds considerable promise for poverty research because it links a search for 'objective' economic concerns to the analysis of 'subjective' and context-specific issues. It is instructive to examine recent studies of poverty that have pursued different theoretical and methodological choices with a view to understand how 'theory' influenced methodological choices, and whether and how such choices influenced their understanding of poverty.

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Glenn Banks

The size and dramatic impact of the large-scale mines of Melanesia make a useful case study of the effects of economic globalization on local communities, particularly in terms of poverty and inequality. In the context of debates concerning globalization and poverty, this article examines the processes around large-scale mining at both the national and local scales. It argues that the issue of scale is critical to discussions of the links between poverty and globalization, with no evidence that large-scale mining has reduced poverty at the national level in Papua New Guinea over the last thirty years. Evidence is given from the Porgera mine of the effects of mining development at the local scale, with absolute poverty down but inequality increasing. Ethnographic detail helps to situate these processes in the dynamics of the local society. It is these locally grounded attributes that account for the production of inequality far better than generalized accounts of the 'culture of globalization'.

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Extreme Poverty and Existential Obligations

Beyond Morality in the Anthropology of Africa?

Harri Englund

The suggestion that the anthropological study of morality is theoretically undeveloped carries with it the risk of caricaturing ideas of moral obligation in mid-twentieth-century social anthropology. The need for recovering aspects of these ideas is demonstrated by the tendency of moral philosophers to reduce the issue of world poverty to a question of ethical choices and dilemmas. Examining the diplomatic tie that had existed for almost 42 years between Malawi and Taiwan and an ill-fated project of Taiwanese aid in rural Malawi, this article maintains that honoring obligations indicates neither a communitarian ethos nor rule-bound behavior. As the mid-twentieth-century anthropology of Africa theorized ethnographically, the moral and existential import of obligation lies in its contingent materiality rather than in social control. Such insights, the article concludes, can enrich debates on world poverty with alternative intellectual resources.

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Barbara Demeyer and Fintan Farrell

This article contains the ‘European Anti-Poverty Network’ contribution to the European research- and Network-project on Indicators of Social Quality (ENIQ). It contains the following parts: after this introduction the European social inclusion strategy, one of the important policy frames for EAPN, will be discussed, followed by the translation of the European decisions on indicators (Laken 2002) by national governments up till now (National Action Plans 1+2) and the consequences for the praxis. The fourth section elaborates on the comments by the EAPN on these European based decisions and the nature of the following reflections within its own membership. The fifth section includes a presentation of research on qualitative indicators for poverty. The last section gives comments and conclusions by EAPN on the social quality approach.

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Rural Poverty in Jordan

Assessment and Characterisation

Mohamed Tarawneh and Abdel Hakim Al Husban

Adopting a qualitative anthropological approach, this report discusses and critiques dominant theoretical currents in the study of poverty and presents a more qualitative analysis of the topic. Through an examination of rural Jordan, new sets of concepts and calculations on poverty - both qualitative and quantitative - have been forged. The research indicates that poverty, as an economic fact, can easily be manipulated and treated as a numerical game. As a social fact, poverty is seen in terms of complex coping strategies that are managed within a framework of social norms.

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Poverty and Shame

Interactional Impacts on Claimants of Chinese Dibao

Jian Chen and Lichao Yang

The Chinese minimum living standard guarantee (dibao), which has been in place since the 1990s, is one of the most important social assistance programs run by the Chinese government. There is extensive literature on dibao, a majority of which deals with how it is allocated in rural communities and its effectiveness in alleviating rural poverty. Receiving dibao is often considered a sign of poverty. Scholars have long discussed the shame experienced by people in poverty. However, very few empirical studies have paid attention to the interplay between shame and dibao. This study draws on one month of qualitative fieldwork, focused on dibao implementation in both urban and rural China. It aims to understand how dibao and shame are connected in relation to three elements of policy provision: discretion, rights, and negotiation.

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Assumptions matter

Reflections on the Kanbur typology

Paul Shaffer

In contradistinction to Ravi Kanbur's (2003) summarization of a recent conference on qualitative and quantitative poverty analysis in which he proposed a typology of differences between 'qual and quant' approaches, I argue that key elements in this typology are derivative of more basic distinctions in the philosophy of social science between three research programs: empiricism/positivism, hermeneutics, and critical theory/critical hermeneutics. The point is not simply of academic interest but has practical implications for aspects of poverty analysis, including numeric transformation of data, assessment of the validity of empirical findings, and inferring policy implications from research results.

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The Causes of World Poverty

Some Reflections on Thomas Pogge’s Analysis

Luigi Caranti

While global poverty is the key moral problem of our times, social scientists are far from reaching a consensus on the causes of this disaster and philosophers disagree on the related responsibilities. One important contribution toward an enlarged understanding is offered by Thomas Pogge in World Poverty and Human Rights (2008). The present paper discusses critically Pogge's contribution and attempts to distinguish the valuable intuitions from the unwarranted conclusions that could be derived from them and that Pogge himself suggests at times. Foremost among these is the thesis that minor changes of the present global order would suffice to remove most world poverty. While it is sceptical about this strong conclusion, the paper confirms, unlike preceding discussions of World Poverty and Human Rights (Patten 2005: 19-27; Cruft 2005: 29-37; Anwander 2005: 39-45), the book's basic philosophical conclusion, namely, that affluent individuals and governments hold negative obligations toward the global poor.

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Quality in the Balance

On the Adaptive and Mimetic Nature of Subjective Well-Being

Thierry Kochuyt

‘Quality’ and ‘well-being’ are topical issues and part of their success is based on the suggestion that we have here hard and solid notions on which one can built a new and better society. As normative standards, they anticipate an ideal state from which the actual reality of things can be evaluated as deficient. In this light poverty appears as a sore phenomenon, an infringement of what the quality of life and well-being are all about. In an attempt to qualify this quality of life, the present article focuses on western poverty and its (lacking) sense of well-being. Turning these notions into norms, one should check if ‘quality’ and ‘well-being’ are transparent i.e., referring to unambiguous evaluations that can be assessed objectively. While common and moral sense supposes so, science has to doubt this assumption. The following is based on empirical research in different fields and some theoretical reflections. Bringing these together we try to identify the subjective mechanisms that trouble the notions of quality and well-being. Indeed, there are distorting forces at work, which create and abort the subjective experiences of quality and well-being and thereby nullify their evaluative potential.