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The Relation Between Consumerism and Poverty

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The Relation Between Consumerism and Poverty The difficulty with poverty in countries such as Britain and the United States is that it can be seen as absurd to talk of poverty in present day advanced countries, "since those considered poor in the United States today have an income greater than the average per capita income of a hundred years ago, to say nothing of their being many times better off than the average Indian today.1" However, I would say that the poverty line depends on a particular society, on social conventions and the present-day living standards of a specific society, not on an unconditional criterion that can be applied to every country all the time. In trying to analytically observe cultural justifications of poverty, we first of all need to be familiar with poverty. Poverty is in general understood to be the stage at which deprivation is to be expected. There are two ways by which poverty is defined; absolute and relative. The first is not having the fundamentals to stay alive; these people do not have enough food, water and shelter. A person is impecunious when their earnings are not enough to achieve the minimum requirement for the preservation of physical effectiveness. 'Relative' poverty is a standard of living which most people throughout the world tolerate. This is the line from which poverty is measured. As it is put, 'the culture of poverty', is an unavoidable trap for most people. ...read more.


As they are not capable of consuming goods that supply high profits for the producers, they are considered "flawed consumers" and investing in their survival is seen as a misuse of money. Moreover, if the more wealthy consumers begin to help the poor they too will have less money to spend on profitable products. In these ways, the poor are considered to be a great burden to capitalist societies. The writer John Berger pointed out that "The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied... but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing." In order for the rich to live at the standard that they do, the majority have to go without, and this is one of the most important (if not the most important) causes of world poverty, even though it is overlooked or denied by a good number of people. Those considered poor today are not poor in the same way that is generally thought; one is poor not simply due to low income but largely due to the fact that this shortage of income means that, you are incapable of participation in society based on its norms and values. ...read more.


In the case of relative poverty, the influence of consumerism is more direct but in the case of absolute poverty, we can obviously give examples of how consumerism often ruins the lives of many in the undeveloped countries. It is in developed countries such as the UK where people suffer at the hands of consumerism with much less recognition. There is a contrast between the two types of suffering; those in the third world suffer more physically whereas those in the west suffer mentally in that they feel like an underclass and they feel as though they are not good enough because they do not have everything that they are told by consumerism, that they should have. 1 A.B.Atkinson. "The Economics of Inequality". Billings and son Ltd. Worcester. 1975. Pg 36 2 M.Ravallion. "Poverty Comparison: a guide to concepts and methods". Living Standards measurement Study Working Paper No 88. The World Bank. 1992 3 Z. Bauman. "Work, Consumerism and the New Poor". Open University Press. New York. 2005 Pg 59 4 http://www.progressives.org.uk/magazine 5 Z. Bauman. "Work, Consumerism and the New Poor". Open University Press. New York. 2005 Pg. 37 6 John Berger [http://www.progressives.org.uk/magazine/] 7 Z. Bauman. "Work, Consumerism and the New Poor". Open University Press. New York. 2005 Pg. 39 8 Marx & Engels. Communist Manifesto, 1848 [http://cal.csusb.edu/Faculty/Philosophy/moody/319%20Marx%20Communist%20Manifesto.htm] 9 Z. Bauman. "Work, Consumerism and the New Poor". Open University Press. New York. 2005 Pg. 66 10 Howard, Garnham, Fimister, Veit-Wilson. "Poverty. The Facts". CPAG. London. 2001. Pg. 15 Edwina Jessel SPS244 09/05/2007 Page 1 ...read more.

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