• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Outline and assess sociological explanations for the increase in poverty when living standards for the majority of the population are rising.

Extracts from this document...


Sociology Essay Question: Outline and assess sociological explanations for the increase in poverty when living standards for the majority of the population are rising. During the 19th century it was said to be believed that the poor have only themselves to blame. It was believed that this was the most popular explanation of poverty at the time. Poverty was seen as a result of idleness, drunkenness and moral degeneracy. If people got themselves into, then it was their responsibility to get themselves out of it. The belief that the poor are responsible for helping themselves is still an important part of market liberal thinking about welfare. However, Herbert Spencer argued that any attempt by the state to alleviate poverty would lead to laziness and moral decline. Most sociologists do not accept individualistic explanations of poverty - explanations which see poverty as a result of the behaviour of the individual. They argue that the way in which incomes and other resources are distributed is the result of social factors which are often beyond the control of individuals, especially those who have little power like the poor. Explanations for the existence of poverty in affluent industrial societies like Britain: Dependency theories: the welfare state as the cause of poverty: Market liberal theorists argue that the poor need to take responsibility for their own situation. ...read more.


Social democratic thinkers reject the argument that dependency is created by the welfare state. They believe that the state has a duty to enable vulnerable and dependent groups to participate in society on equal terms with other citizens. The culture of poverty: Culture as the cause of poverty: New Right theories see the underclass as characterised by a way of life and attitudes which create dependency and so prevent the poor from escaping and so prevent the poor from escaping from poverty. This idea of a culture of poverty has its origins in the work of the American anthropologist Oscar Lewis who studied poor communities in Mexico and Puerto Rico in the 1950's and 1960's. Lewis (1968) argued that in Third World societies the poor have a distinctive culture with attitudes, norms and values which duffer from those of the mainstream culture. This culture of poverty includes attitudes of resignation and fatalism which lead the poor to accept their fate then attempting to improve their lot. This can be seen as their failure. The culture of poverty emphasises immediate gratification and a concern with the present. This makes it difficult for poor people to plan or save for the future, join trade unions, political organisations and community groups which might help them to improve their situation. ...read more.


Peter Townsend argues that poverty is closely related to class. The majority of the poor occupy (or have occupied) unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. In his more recent studies, he point to the large numbers of black people and women who suffer from poverty because of the disadvantage they face in the labour market. Marxists argue that poverty in capitalist society can only be understood in terms of economic system. Money is the main motivation for work. Unequal monetary rewards motivate workers to compete for higher wages. And capitalism requires highly motivated workers. Marxists argue that to focus on the poor can divert attention from the real cause of poverty - the social inequality generated by the capitalist system. It follows that any solution to poverty must involve the abolition of capitalism. Critics of Marxists argue that it fails to explain why some groups are prone to poverty than others, for example the particular vulnerability of women and black people. Moreover, writers like Townsend point out that the state can influence the operation of the labour market, often in opposition to capitalist interests. E.g. Employment protection legislation provides workers with protection against unfair dismissal and the equal opportunities Commission attempts to ensure equal pay for women. 1 Saba Hasnain 13PT ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Charities, Poverty and Development section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Charities, Poverty and Development essays

  1. Wealth and poverty essay

    Islamic relief is a large charity helping all over the world. Islamic Relief began from a small organization and has since grown into an international organization. Islamic Relief was started in1984 by two students Hany El Banna and Ihsan Shabib.

  2. Wealth and Poverty

    programmes to reduce global poverty and injustice CAFOD spends the money on long-term development projects and programmes in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, emergency responses to disasters, campaigning, public education and policy work, and managing the charity's work.

  1. RE poverty

    This relates to one of the main teachings of Christianity- 'Love your neighbour, as you love yourself'. But the main statement suggests Christians should be responsible only for Christians, not supporting the world as a whole, like in Exodus 22.

  2. Global inequality letter

    You are yet again being very na�ve because you don't understand the difference between the needs and wants in life. Where you say "loads of places selling food" you refer to Burger king and Mc Donald's. But people in poverty would not be able to afford fast food as it

  1. Livable Wages to American Citizens

    " However what our country need in order to make a reasonably accurate assessment of what families need to get by. We must first determine what basic expenses families require and then determine what they would actually have to bring in as income in order to meet those expenses.

  2. To what extent do the practices of charitable organisations comply with charity laws and ...

    This act of branding charities as weak and deceitful merely because of a few 'rotten apple' cases is therefore unjustified. 3.1 Advocacy and campaigning Besides soliciting for funds in an honest manner, it is also imperative that charities maintain a complete record of all the donations that they receive and acknowledge the donors.

  1. To What Extent Is the Welfare State Responsible For Creating a Culture of Dependency?

    However, Lewis argues that these very values which help cope with poverty also trap the people in poverty. For example, one of the beliefs of the culture of poverty is to live for today and not to worry about the future.

  2. The Relation Between Consumerism and Poverty

    Our industries may be competent for amassing wealth and making profits, but that does not necessarily imply that it is efficient for society. As well as consuming unnecessary goods, the western world is also tremendously wasteful. Regardless of the widespread belief that poverty, particularly world hunger, is caused by a

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work