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This essay outlines, contrasts and critically discusses two definitions of poverty, namely absolute and relative. The essay initially seeks to define the political standing of poverty.

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Introduction

Abstract This essay outlines, contrasts and critically discusses two definitions of poverty, namely absolute and relative. The essay initially seeks to define the political standing of poverty. It then goes on to discuss the two forms of poverty as defined and uses examples of research from Townsend and Oppenheim as the main contributors. The essay also refers to the work of Adam Smith and Karl Marx. In conclusion both terms of poverty, relative and absolute are critically analysed for appropriateness within modern society. The conclusions draw on other forms of poverty such as dependency and underclass and social exclusion. Word Count 1503 Essay question 4 Outline and critically discuss two different definitions of poverty. The concept of poverty in the UK is now recognised by the government as a 'pressing social concern'. 'Poverty is multi-dimensional. It is not only about money. It is also about jobs, access to public services, environment and ambition. It is about education, housing, the local environment, training, jobs, and your home and family life, being free from crime and drug abuse. So our vision for addressing child poverty is an all encompassing one. One, which straddles income, public services and jobs'. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore people who lack these vital materials for survival can be classed as living within absolute poverty. But, a key factor associated with absolute poverty is that although most people universally accept it, what is required to sustain life within a society is subject to change with time and place. So, even a basic definition such as this does not fully encompass all cultures and societies. It is therefore maybe more apt to define poverty within the realms of the society to which it refers to. This is where many would prefer to use the notion of relative poverty. Relative poverty is deemed to be socially constructed within societies and is subject to change with time and culture but fundamentally it refers to people who are living below a pre-defined standard of living. This pre-defined standard is in many countries related to the economics of the individual and the living standard that they are accustomed to and living within. Relative poverty is a definition based upon comparisons between the standards of living of the poor and the standard of living of other members of society who have not been classed as poor. It usually involves a measure of the average standard of the society in which poverty is being studied (Alcock, P, 1993) ...read more.

Conclusion

The job of monitoring poverty has been left to policy makers who through their own wisdom decide not to use the term poverty at all but prefer to define it as 'the lowest ten percent' or the 'minority of society'. Poverty is a real issue and although it can be defined through set definitions of absolute or relative, it has begun to evolve into more politically acceptable definitions such as dependant or socially excluded. These terms do not carry the negativity of the single term poverty. Both absolute and relative poverty try to encompass the defining factors of human existence in their definition of poverty but neither alone seems to define it. A combination of both terms moves us closer but universally this combined definition is not appropriate for use within a society outside the United Kingdom or any other country in which it is developed. The Joseph Rowntree inquiry probably defined a more apt method of defining poverty that does not look at the absolute aspect but focuses on the relative. It reflects a relative view of living standards and opportunities and provokes debate as to whether people should be able to participate fully within society and that social policy will not be overcome unless policy makers listen to those who are living in poverty (Oppenheim et al). ...read more.

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