Friday, July 20, 2007


Ian Bruce , normally the Defence correspondent for the Herald had an interesting article . He ponders over all the recent poverty statistics that has recently been published . Bruce has some questions that he wished to be answered .

In terms of cash, the inequalities in sheer wealth separating us count as a gulf. Does that make me poor?
Or rather, is there an actual connection between poverty and inequality?
Why should poverty be defined in terms of inequality if the numbers of "core" poor have been declining?
Social mobility is less common in Britain now than for a very long time. Increasingly, people no longer get on and get out. Increasingly, they do not believe that such a thing is possible. Why?

Bruce then reflects on the failure to address poverty .

Failures of policy, failures of will, failures to think and failures to act. Failures, equally, to understand that so many actions have failed, and for so many years. Sometimes you even begin to wonder if the state and its agencies had just handed out cash from the backs of buses then the poor, breadline or core, would be less common. Tax credits, the Child Support Agency, countless regeneration schemes, welfare-to-work, on-yer-bike, mass unemployment as "a price worth paying", job creation deals involving billions and endless "poverty initiatives

Yet he acknowledges one in four households remain breadline poor despite these 40 years of reforms .

It is disappointing that such a questioning individual as Ian Bruce simply fails to follow the trail to the root cause of poverty . Capitalism .

Marx has something to say about poverty and the contradictions created by Capitalism .

" It is true that labour produces marvels for the rich, but it produces privation for the worker. It produces palaces, but hovels for the worker. It produces beauty, but deformity for the worker. It replaces labour by machines, but it casts some of the workers back into barbarous forms of labour and turns others into machines. It produces intelligence, but it produces idiocy and cretinism for the worker."

The poverty of the working class to which Marx often refers can be understood in absolute and in relative terms. In absolute terms (in terms of how much workers have to eat, how much of a house they can afford, etc.) the condition of workers in highly developed countries has undoubtedly improved since the 19th century. In relative terms, however (in terms of what workers earn in comparison to what the owners of capital gain), the situation of workers has worsened.Since the imbalance of wealth usually translates into an imbalance of political power and influence as well, many capitalist countries tend to be, for all practical purposes, oligarchies rather than genuine democracies. Although their democratic institutions may be intact and functioning, their policies tend to be determined by wealthy elites much more than by citizens at large. The poor suffer from a lack of empowerment . High standards of living are not defined in terms of ever more food, drink, clothing, vehicles, appliances--in short, ever more things. A high standard of living rather means rich experiences, fully developed emotions, closeness to other people, a good education, and so forth. A person with very few possessions, but with an intensive life, comes much closer to Marx' idea of a happy human being than a well-paid worker who can afford to buy many consumer goods, but who is neither informed enough to understand the society in which he lives, nor has the motivation to shape, in cooperation with fellow-workers, his working conditions or the political system in which he lives. A worker who is overweight, who spends most of his time watching commercial television, whose main conversations with colleagues deal with the sports page, and who is too tired or apathetic to participate in the political process--such a worker is not well off in Marx' eyes, but a victim of a system that is ripe with alienation in every sense.

As Marx has written

"A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighboring palace rises in equal of even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls."

Seeking a solution within capitalism is futile .

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