Relative poverty is when you are poor in relation to the rest of you society as you can’t afford to meet the standard of living, therefore you can’t afford the ‘basics’ or the ‘norms’ of our society The existence of poverty can be put down to numerous reasons, however they are usually split into two categories: structural or individualistic views.
Both have positive and negative aspects to explaining how poverty is caused. Marxists generally agree with the structural view of poverty and New Right agree with the individualistic blaming view.Structural or ‘ system blaming views’ are based upon the idea that poverty occurs as a result of the way our society operates and the poor are unable to achieve a reasonable standard of living as they are exploited by the Capitalist system, this is a view that Marxists would agree with.
They believe that poverty is built in to the Capitalist system and it is a way of life because it creates jobs and therefore why would they get rid of it. Poverty emerges in three ways; the bourgeoisie or ruling class create a deliberate low wage for people so that they can make a profit in order to produce wealth.The poor are forced to work on a very low income, as this is their only option if they want to achieve a standard of living. This is purposely done, as the bourgeoisie know these people need a job in order to survive, and with they’re being such a high demand for jobs any income will do. Clearly this results in a problem, as the wages are a bare minimum and it means they can only afford the essentials. This then links in to how we measure poverty, as these people may only be able to afford the basics.
They can’t afford necessities that were mentioned in Peter Townsend’s deprivation index and as they lack in these resources these people would be labelled as being in poverty, when really it could be that they don’t desire these items. Another system blaming view as a cause for poverty is that the least powerful groups are more likely to loose out in labour market, then forming the bulk of the poor, for example 1. 8 million retired and elderly people lived in poverty in 2006 as they are unable to work and they are having to live off their pensions.Other groups this is mainly aimed at are woman, lone parents and the disabled. These groups are known as the ‘powerless’ groups, as when they do come in contact with employment it is usually short-term, low paid, temporary and maybe ‘unofficial’ work. These groups are exploited by the state and they are seen as the people who need the most help as they are blameless victims who suffer not because of their own faults but because of the positions they are in.For example the disabled are twice as likely to be poor than a non-disabled adult, this is mainly down to the fact they cant obtain work due to their disability or it can be because they are disabled employers don’t want to employ them.
This idea can be seen as a valid reason for poverty as it has been shown that these groups do infact suffer as they aren’t as powerful as others. However it can be argued that some of the people who are in these groups are just relying on the state to give them their benefits.As they may claim to have a disability or claim they can’t get a job when really they are too lazy and find that it will be easier to rely on the state, which we understand as a victim blaming view. This idea also links with the Weberian views, that status in this circumstance being the ruling class are able to effectively prevent many of these groups accessing high-end jobs due to their lack of skills or qualifications. Then leading to them having little skills, being given a low pay and also getting excluded as they cant access the more secure positions.This keeps them stuck in this vicious circle of not getting anywhere or gaining new experience and therefore other employees don’t want to take them on, as they have nothing to offer.
However this view doesn’t apply to everyone, as there are people who are given that chance and are able to work their way up the ladder. But it is also true in that people with the higher statuses are able to put boundaries in front of these people because they are at a better level then them.Statuses are seen to be passed down through generations, therefore it is not that you are able to gain your status it is that it’s inherited, and it is almost biological. The idea of citizenship which was an argument developed by Frank Field is another view as to how poverty is caused by victim blaming views, this closely links to the idea of powerless groups in society. He believed that specific groups have been excluded from the rights that every citizen should have a decent standard of living.This was particularly aimed at the long term unemployed, lone parent families, and pensioners as Field found that the state did not give these people the same benefits that every other citizen had.
The state would rather blame these people for their poverty instead if looking at wider economic and social factors. Therefore this view once again states that the reduction of poverty lies in a more-organised and comprehensive welfare state.A weakness in this view is that it’s clearly suggesting that the state sees these groups as less important as the rest resulting in them maybe being unemployed and getting blamed for being poor. However, I don’t think the state are to blame for putting them in this position. Although it could be argued that they state are too blame as all these major businesses are closing down due to the recession which means more and more people are becoming unemployed, which results in people having to live off benefits because they aren’t providing these jobs that are needed.Individualists or ‘victim blaming views’ are seen as another reason for how poverty is caused.
They are based upon the idea that poverty occurs because of the actions of the people who are in poverty, which may be down to their culture or personal deficiency, this view is normally agreed by New Right thinkers. These people are known as ‘scroungers’, as they are seen as too lazy to go out and work because it is just as easy to rely on the welfare state’s benefit system instead of getting a job. This idea agrees with Marsland’s theory of the independent individual.He believed the individuals weren’t willing to work, as the welfare state benefits are excessively generous and therefore there would be no point in working when they can earn more off the state then if they were to have a job. If they were to get a job they would however be able to get themselves out of poverty, so a cause for poverty is clearly down to deficient individual.
From looking at the individuals in society this view gives us a more accurate approach to the causes of poverty, as it is not looking at our society as a hole it picks out the individuals.However it is also fair to say that it might not be that these people are lazy but it may be down to them not being able to get a job, which could relate back to the exclusion based causes of poverty. A cause of poverty is also down to peoples culture, where groups have developed a set of values allowing them to be trapped in poverty, this was originally suggest by Oscar Lewis. This brings about the idea that these groups are caught up in their culture and it puts barriers in their paths and it enables them to believe they aren’t able to get out of poverty.They believe in fatalism and immediate gratification therefore they accept they are in poverty as it is fate and there is no way or getting out of it, so when they receive money they spend it straight away instead of saving as there is no point. It can be argued that peoples culture is not a cause of poverty, however if children are brought up in this situation these ideas will be implanted in their heads and if they are constantly surrounded by negative thoughts it may allow them to believe their life will be heading in the same direction.On the other hand it can be argued that they are brought up with these values and therefore they aspire to achieve something in life.
We see many examples of people like this in our society today, who may have been brought up in a deprived background because of their culture, yet they have exceeded themselves and gone to achieve massive accomplishments. The underclass approach is also seen as an individualistic view as to why poverty is caused.This idea was developed by Charles Murray, he stated that the underclass consists of people who are lazy, make no effort to work or look after themselves and they therefore prefer to live off the state, this also relates to the idea of the ‘scrounger’. Murray did accept the idea that there are people that are poor not through their own fault.
Nevertheless he believes that the bulk of our society in poverty is self-inflicted, as these people never bother to earn a living and waste any chances of what they do have.Clearly there are faults in this view; many people may have been brought up in a deprived background. Resulting in a lack of quality education that provides the knowledge and experience for the future. The area they live in may also have an effect on them, as there may not be many opportunities for them. It might be because of their background and where they live that they haven’t been able to achieve this reasonable standard of living, consequently they don’t look approachable and in comparison to someone who does they then wont get the job.Murray also argued that a segment of the working class distinguish themselves through the following factors: crime, illegitimacy and economic activity. He believed that a massive amount of children were born outside or marriage due to casual sex, and after that the fathers had no interest in supporting the mothers with their child.
This would then result in a lone mother who is a victim that is more likely to be at risk of poverty and once again it is then blaming the individual. This view can be argues, as research shows that the majority of lone parents would like a stable relationship.By economic inactivity Murray was referring to the levels of long-term unemployment that characterize these working class people. He believed it wasn’t that they were unemployed; it was that they were working in the ‘hidden’ economy, whilst collecting state benefits. Overall Murray believed that poverty is caused by people choosing to live that way, these people being the underclass. However Murray’s view can be criticised, as he uses no factual evidence from surveys to prove that there is such a thing of the underclass, it is a matter of his own opinion.
Individualistic theories and structural theories both have an impact on saying how poverty is caused and both have valid reasons for this. Individualistic theories are valid in that they look at the individuals in society and therefore they are looking at what factors are causing poverty, whereas structural theories look at society as a whole and they don’t pick out the individual factors, which I feel puts a negative against it. As when looking at such a big problem it would seem more reasonable to view the individuals to see what is going wrong, rather than saying this happens in one area therefore everyone is like this.
For that reason I am more towards the idea that poverty is caused by the individuals in some sense, as it is fair to say there are scroungers who rely on our exceedingly generous welfare system. However, the Capitalist system are also to blame as they are providing these benefits for these people to live off, and it should be thought about more carefully as to who it goes to and who really needs it. As the country does have a minimum wage and therefore if people are choosing to live off benefits rather than working, subsequently they should consider in thinking is this amount enough to be able to achieve a decent standard of living.