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Outline and assess the view that poverty is caused by economic inequality rather than cultural attitudes and lifestyles.

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Introduction

Outline and assess the view that poverty is caused by economic inequality rather than cultural attitudes and lifestyles. There is much debate in sociology that poverty is caused by structural factors such as economic inequality and those who state that it is caused by cultural factors such as attitudes, values and lifestyles. The first group say that the poor are made to be poor by the economic and political systems, they state that the poor are prevented from achieving a good standard of living by the actions of the more powerful in society and that those with the least power are poor. In contrast, the second group say that the poor cause their own poverty and that this poverty is a result of some individual or cultural deficiency. They argue that some of the underclass do not want to work and that the welfare state actually makes people dependent on it. They also state that the fatalistic nature of the poor prevents them from breaking out of this situation. There are many theories regarding the structural factors such as economic inequality. Sociologists state that in all society the least powerful groups are the most likely to lose out economically and socially and they will therefore make up the majority of the poor. ...read more.

Middle

Lewis also argues that at a community level, the poor are unlikely to participate in those organisations (for example, trade unions and political parties) which could campaign for improvements. However, he was uncertain about the degree of change that could be brought about through changes in the structure of society; he believed that the culture of poverty was transmitted from one generation to another. However, some say that there is no such thing as a culture of poverty, that the values developed by the poor are a natural and rational reaction to the conditions of hopelessness, that it is a lack of resources and not values which hold people back. Many sociologists argue that the poor are excluded and therefore it is logical to not bother planning long-term for the future as it is unlikely that they will be able to break free from their poverty. Another theory which seeks to explain poverty from a cultural or dependency point of view is that of "The Cycle of Deprivation", a piece of research by Rutter and Madge. They argued that there is a cycle of deprivations whereby the poverty of the parents is passed onto the children. They saw that there was a variety of factors which could create disadvantage. ...read more.

Conclusion

job. Thus it can be seen that poverty appears to be caused by economic inequality rather than cultural attitudes and lifestyle. It is evident that many of the theories which support this view are far more realistic and explanatory of poverty than the cultural explanations, which are outdated and deterministic. It is impossible to state that there is only one factor that contributes to poverty, however, and thus it seems far more likely that poverty is caused by a mixture of economic inequality and cultural attitudes and lifestyle rather than one or the other. It is increasingly hard to generalise "the poor" from any theory that seeks to explain poverty as there are always exceptions to the rule. It cannot be stated that all poor people are lazy and do not wish to work, as many people living in poverty actively seek work or are in poverty due to holding low-paid or unskilled jobs. It cannot be argued that poverty is caused by the capitalist economic system (as the Marxists argue) as it does not explain why some groups (for example, women) are more prone to poverty than others. Poverty is caused by a combination of factors from both the structural debates and the cultural argument and both have to be taken into account in order to draw a conclusion about the principle cause of poverty in society. ...read more.

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