A relational approach to durable poverty, inequality and power

J Dev Stud. 2010;46(7):1156-78. doi: 10.1080/00220388.2010.487095.


The article argues for what can be called a 'relational' approach to poverty: one that first views persistent poverty as the consequence of historically developed economic and political relations, and second, that emphasises poverty and inequality as an effect of social categorisation and identity, drawing in particular on the experience of adivasis ("tribals") and dalits ("untouchables") subordinated in Indian society. The approach follows Charles Tilly's Durable Inequality in combining Marxian ideas of exploitation and dispossession with Weberian notions of social closure. The article then draws on the work of Steven Lukes, Pierre Bourdieu and Arjun Appadurai to argue for the need to incorporate a multidimensional conception of power; including not only power as the direct assertion of will but also 'agenda-setting power' that sets the terms in which poverty becomes (or fails to become) politicised, and closely related to power as political representation. This sets the basis for discussion of the politics of poverty and exclusion.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Government Programs / economics
  • Government Programs / education
  • Government Programs / history
  • Government Programs / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Hierarchy, Social*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • India / ethnology
  • Poverty Areas
  • Poverty* / economics
  • Poverty* / ethnology
  • Poverty* / history
  • Poverty* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Poverty* / psychology
  • Public Policy* / economics
  • Public Policy* / history
  • Public Policy* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Social Alienation / psychology
  • Social Conditions / economics
  • Social Conditions / history
  • Social Conditions / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom / ethnology