Psychonomics and Poverty: Towards Governance and a Civil Society

Psychonomics and Poverty: Towards Governance and a Civil Society

Psychonomics and Poverty: Towards Governance and a Civil Society

Psychonomics and Poverty: Towards Governance and a Civil Society

Synopsis

In Psychonomics and Poverty: Towards Governance and a Civil Society, Ramesh Deosaran describes a novel, multidisciplinary approach to the study of poverty. He uses what he terms "photosociology" as a tool for painstaking research, and he presents "profiles of poverty" which effectively match the stark faces of the poor to statistical data.

Excerpt

There has been no dearth of studies of poverty by economists and social scientists. In the United States, President Lyndon Johnson, early in his term of office declared a "War on Poverty" which led to a series of studies, including three full issues of the Journal of Social Issues on this topic in the late '60s and early '70s. Several of the articles in these issues, indeed, anticipate some of Professor Deosaran's discussions of the importance of social psychological dimensions in poverty. But nowhere, to my knowledge, has there been an attempt at an overall systematic multidisciplinary, theoretical approach to poverty which is evident in Deosaran's volume. Furthermore, even if the United States is today undergoing a period of relative prosperity, one cannot say that the war on poverty is essentially won, since there is, it seems, an even greater gap between the very rich and the very poor, with some pockets of extreme poverty. And in many parts of the world, poverty seems as dire as ever. Clearly new tools and methods are called for in order to call the war on poverty an unmitigated success, and the tool makers must go beyond the limited perspectives of relatively fortunate and prosperous nations such as the United States.

Deosaran proposes a new discipline which he calls "psychonomics", defined as "an application of social psychological principles to an understanding of behaviour in economic contexts". The economic success of a society, he says, depends upon its various capitals. Capital is generally defined as the accumulated goods and resources which might be used in the production of other goods or income. Usually, the term refers to material resources, raw materials, income, technology, etc. This is what Deosaran calls physical capital. However, he also distinguishes three other forms of capital: skills capital (training, occupation, knowledge), social capital (e.g., communal solidarity, integration, safety), and social psychological capital (e.g., trust, civic attitudes, relative deprivation, personal expectations and well-being). It is the last, social psychological capital (or, briefly, psychological capital), which Deosaran believes to be critical to economic success, since it affects social and skills capital, and combines with them in determining the level of physical capital.

Now, an emphasis on psychological factors in economics, so consistent with the field theoretical approach of Kurt Lewin, is not new with Deosaran, though few people emphasize its importance so greatly. Further, the perspective from which one views psychological variables can also be crucial. In the '40s, George Katona of the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center applied psychological economics in studies of the United . . .

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