World Poverty: New Policies to Defeat an Old Enemy

World Poverty: New Policies to Defeat an Old Enemy

World Poverty: New Policies to Defeat an Old Enemy

World Poverty: New Policies to Defeat an Old Enemy


World poverty is an important book offering fresh insights into how to tackle poverty worldwide. With contributions from leading scholars in the field both internationally and in the UK, the book asks whether existing international and national policies are likely to succeed in reducing poverty across the world. It concludes that they are not and that a radically different international strategy is needed. This book is a companion volume to Breadline Europe: The measurement of poverty (The Policy Press, 2001). The focus of World poverty is on anti-poverty policies rather than the scale, causes and measurement of poverty. A wide range of countries is discussed including countries such as China and India, which have rarely been covered elsewhere. The interests of the industrialised and developing world are given equal attention and are analysed together. Policies intended to operate at different levels - international, regional, national and sub-national - ranging from the policies of international agencies like the UN and the World Bank through to national governments, groups of governments and local and city authorities - are examined. Key aspects of social policy, like 'targeting' and means-testing, de-regulation and privatisation, are considered in detail. World poverty will become a definitive point of reference for anyone working, studying or researching in the poverty field. Studies in poverty, inequality and social exclusion seriesSeries Editor: David Gordon, Director, Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research. Poverty, inequality and social exclusion remain the most fundamental problems that humanity faces in the 21st century. This exciting series, published in association with the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, aims to make cutting-edge poverty related research more widely available. For other titles in this series, please follow the series link from the main catalogue page.


Peter Townsend and David Gordon

“I am often asked what is the most serious form of human rights violation in
the world today and my reply is consistent: extreme poverty.”
(Mary Robinson, 2002)

In Breadline Europe: The measurement of poverty (Gordon and Townsend, 2000), we argued that the measurement and analysis of poverty could not be separated from the construction, or indeed the historical and contemporary responsibilities, of policies. They are driving causes of the human conditions and experiences making up ‘poverty’. Yet poverty-diminishing or poverty-promoting policies are not generally identified as such, and their effects not precisely quantified. There is not much ‘literature of inquiry’ to trace the contribution of different policies to the overall extent of national and international, still less local, poverty. A growing awareness of this yawning gap in human knowledge led to the design of this book. Of course a single inquiry like ours cannot provide all the answers. Indeed, it cannot hope to provide much more than preliminary answers to questions about the distribution of poverty across the world and the trends taking place. Rather, this book can only represent a beginning–a point of departure–for resolute and determined programmes of research and analysis in many countries.

Our aim was to bring together research scientists and a range of information from across the world. In doing this we found that institutions had to be understood, and investigated, as agents directing and sponsoring policies that contributed to the changing extent and depth of poverty among people. These institutions include governments, but also other institutions. Many readers will no doubt be familiar with particular policies of particular governments that claim to reduce poverty. These include policies to improve or target benefits for poor people–such as allowances for children in families with low incomes, or new basic pensions for categories of the elderly population. Policies to get more people back into work, so that they can support themselves rather than become dependent on state benefits, provide another example. Inquiry can be made into the effects of such policies, whether intended or unintended. However . . .

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