Authored by: Peter Saunders

The Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415682923
eBook ISBN: 9780203084229
Adobe ISBN: 9781136190230


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Poverty is an issue that has attracted the attention of leading academic scholars and has inspired some of the greatest works of fiction. Whether it be Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables in nineteenth-century France, Dickens’s characters living in the squalid slums of Victorian London, or those excluded from today’s advanced democratic societies or struggling to survive famine in sub-Saharan Africa, throughout history poverty has motivated the search for understanding and been a rallying call for action. It has attracted the attention of the world’s leading social scientists, inspiring the conflicting theories of Adam Smith and Karl Marx, the policies developed by welfare state pioneers Bismarck and Beveridge, and the conceptual and measurement skills of generations of researchers, from Booth and Rowntree to Townsend and Sen. Poverty has featured prominently on the post-war policy agenda, whether it be the 1960s US ‘war on poverty’, the British government’s attack on child poverty in the 1990s, or the United Nations (UN)’s Millennium Development Goals, which include halving extreme poverty by 2015. A central idea that links these diverse developments is the notion that poverty is bad – bad in terms of its immediate effects on those who experience it, bad also because of its longer-term consequences, particularly for children, and bad for those societies whose inaction implicitly condones it.

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