Saturday, 21 June 2014


This block deals with the concept of the state as an institution, its impact on other societal institutions. It also provides basic information on many other concepts associated with the state and politics.
The modem state is a complex set of institutions, which are highly integrated and structured. The persons comprising the state are not treated as individuals but as citizens or voters. Since the laws provide them equality, all citizens are ideally speaking (and this is provided in our constitution as well) treated equally with rights and privileges. The state has built up a web of institutions to administer and govern. The government is composed of individuals and officials occupying these institutions who derive their authority from their office.
A community or society politically organised under one independent government within a definite territory can be called a State. The state is a special institution, which serves the interest of the whole community, or a class of society. The state emerges at a definite stage of social development, and in order to understand the state. social evolution, in general, must be understood first. Without understanding the general laws of social development, the state and politics cannot be studied objectively.
The main elements of a state are as follows:
All states must have a population. No explicit or fixed figure can be considered as the ideal size of population. There is no rule or political practice governing the number of persons necessary to entitle a community to recognition as a State. Some writers in the past have, however, undertaken to lay down within broad lines certain principles, which should determine the size of the population, necessary for the existence of a State, and some have even assumed to fix exactly the minimum and the maximum number of inhabitants, but manifestly any such rule would be arbitrary.
Territory is another essential physical constituent of the State. Territory of the State consists not only of a definite portion of land, but also includes water and air space within its boundary. It also extends in addition to a distance of three miles into the sea from its coast, an area called 'the territorial waters'. The state boundaries may be natural that is, they may be bodies of water, mountain ranges, and deserts, or artificial, like stones: trenches, walls etc. There is no rule or practice concerning the extent of territory necessary to constitute the home of a State, any more than there is, regarding the amount of population.
A mere mass of people occupying a practical portion of territory does not constitute a State until the people have organised themselves politically, and established a civil government. There must be some political agency that comnands and regulates the governed who obeys. The government exercises the authority of the State. Government is a narrower term than the State, being only part of it. The State includes both the government and the governed. The government is the established form of political administration of a State.
It means the supreme and ultimate power of the State by virtue of which it may command and enforce obedience. It is this. which distinguishes the State from all other associations and organisations. Sovereignty is characteristic of the State, not of the government, though the government on behalf of the State may exercise it. There can be no State without sovereignty.
International Recognition
In reality, international recognition is the outcome of the sovereignty of the State, not the condition of its existence. States are sometimes defined as those entities recognized by other States. A State recognizes another State when its government is convinced that the other State has the characteristic of a State. Recognition is the voluntary action of one State for another.
Role of the State and Impact on other Institutions 
The State takes the responsibility to provide all the public goods such as education, health care, drinking water, basic infrastructure in both rural and urban settings, and provide social security, etc. In India, the Tenth Plan, in this emerging scenario, intakes a distinct shift from an investment-oriented approach to setting a reform agenda designed to achieve the social targets through effective governance. It relies on the mobilization of the energies of Central and State Governments, Panchayat Raj institutions and Non - Governmental Organisations for the accomplishment of the clearly spelt out tasks of social development. Programs intended for the poor or the targeted groups must be delivered to them effectively. There are many radical changes in the style of functioning of Government and its agencies have been asked to bring about greater efficiency, transparency and accountability.
The term "law" is applied to rules for the guidance of human conduct. No group of people can live longer in peace and tranquility without such rules of conduct. Rules need not essentially require to have been written. These can be in the form of traditions and conventions as well. The word law has been derived from the term 'lag ' which means something which lies fixed. So it follows that the 'law' in principle which is fixed or uniform or "generally followed". Gettell has classified the laws that govern the conduct of human beings under three categories: (i) moral laws (ii) social laws, and (iii) political laws. The people generally obey the law because of (a) the force of the State, (b) the promotion of common good, or (c) n ~ l e conforming habit. However, if we genuinely feel that a particular law is unjust, we should create public opinion against that law. Mahatma Gandhi has shown how the techniques of non-cooperation and civil disobedience can be used effectively against autocratic regimes.
The legislature is the most important of the three organs of the government because it represents the people and tries to represent their hopes and aspirations in the shape of laws. Legislature is the official rule making body of a political system.
The Indian Constitution has adopted the parliamentary system of government, a system in which the executive is responsible to the legislatures constituted by the election.
The primary function of the legislature is to legislate both in the sense of scrutinizing the details of laws and in the sense of authorizing or legitimising the passage of laws.
Being a federal polity, legislative organs have been provided in our Constitution at the Union as well as the State.
The executive is that part of the organisation of the government, which is concerned with the enforcement of the laws enacted by the legislature as well as general administration. With the conversion of the modem state into welfare state, the functions of the executive have enormously expanded.The functions which are performed by the executive in different parts of the world are the following:
a) Maintenance of law and order b) Protection of country and maintenance of diplomatic relations c) The enactment of.the laws. d) The chief executive enjoys the right to grant pardon, amnesty, reprieve, etc. to the persons punished by the law courts. e) Miscellaneous functions like formulation of national plans for greater prosperity of the country, distribution of honours and titles to the persons who are distinguished in their respective fields or render meritorious services to the state.
'The judiciary is the most important organ of the governnlent because it is through it that justice is realized as defined by law, both as between one private citizen and another and as between private citizens and members of government.'The term judiciary is generally applied to designate those officers of the government whose function is to apply the existing law to individual is the responsibility of these officers to discover the relevant facts in any case and protect the innocent from injury by either the legislature or the executive branch of government.
The main functions of judiciary are: (a) administration of justice (b) protection of the rights and liberties (c) protection and interpretation of the constitution (d) protection of federation, (e) the advisory role to the executive, etc.
Citizenship In traditional States, most of the population ruled by the King or Emperor showed little awareness of, or interest in, those who governed them. Neither did they have any political rights nor influence. Normally only the dominant classes or more affluent groups felt a sense of belonging to an overall political community.
In modem societies, by contrast, most people living within the borders of the political system are citizens, having common rights and duties and knowing them- selves to be part of a Nation. While there are some people who are political refugees or are 'state less' almost everyone in the world today is a member of a 'definite national political order.
Rights Rights are the social requirements of a social man or woman for the development of hisher personality and society at large. There are two aspects of rights: personal and social. Rights have a social character and are given only to the people living in society and wbrking in the overall interest of society.
According to Green a right is a power of acting for hisher own ends.. .secured to an individual by the community on the supposition that it contributes to the good of the community.
Duties There are no duties without rights and no rights without duties. A duty means an obligation imposed by law on an officer or a private person. As such, duty presupposes that one is capable.of knowing the rules. Infants, idiots and animals are not supposed to know the rules and to act inaccordance with them. However we attribute rights to infants, idiots and even animals.
Democracy The term democracy is derived from two Greek words 'demos' which means people and 'kratia' meaning the government. The boundaries of democracy have been widened, so as to add social and economic justice to the principle of political equality. Abraham Lincoln projected democracy as "government of the people,by the people and for the people.
Elite Theory
The elite theory was first developed by two Italian sociologists, namely, Vilfredo Pareto and G. Mosca.
Elite theory claims that the personal qualities of individuals separate the rulers from the ruled. The elite owe their position to the superiority of their personal characteristics or attributes. For example, they may possess considerable organisational ability, a talent that Mosca believed to be basis for leadership. On the other hand, they may possess a high degree of cunning and intelligence, qualities that Pareto saw as one of the prerequisites of power.
Later versions of elite theory place less emphasis on the personal qualities of the powerful and more on the institutional framework of the society. They argue that the hierarchical organisation of social institutions allows a minority to monopolize power.
Elite theory rejected the idea of communism as utopia and argues that an egalitarian society was an illusion. It saw Marxism as ideology rather than an objective analysis of society. Elite theory argues that all societies are divided into two main groups, a ruling minority, and the ruled and this situation is inevitable. According to elite theory. if the proletarian revolution occurs, it would merely result in the replacement of one ruling elite by another.
The economic structure, be it capitalist or communist, will not alter the inevitability of elite rule. Apart from the personal qualities of its members, an elite owes its power to its internal organisation. It forms a united and cohesive minority in the face of an unorganised and fragmented mass. In Mosca's words, 'the power of the minority is irresistible as against each single individual in the majority'.
The elite takes major decisions, which affect society. Even in so-called democratic societies, these decisions will usually reflect the concerns of the elite rather than the wishes of the people. Elite theorists picture the illa majority as apathetic and unconcerned with the major issues of the day. The mass of the population is largely controlled and manipulated by the elite, passively accepting the propaganda. which justifies elite rule.
Power means strength or the capacity to control. It is described as the ability of an individual or group to fulfill its desires and implement its decisions and ideas. It involves the ability to influence as well as control the behaviour of others even against their will. N.P. power is a multifaceted concept admitting various definitions. Some emphasize different bases of power (for e.g.: wealth, status, knowledge, charisma, force, authority); some others talk of different forms of power, such as, influence, coercion or control; yet others discuss power from the point of view of its uses such as individual or community ends, political ends, economic ends etc.
Welfare State The term welfare state was originally applied to Britain during the Second World War. After the war the term came into popular usage, as a convenient way of referring to the social and economic policy changes taking place, which according to those sponsoring them, would transform British society.
There were these main services provided by the Welfare State:
1) The direction and extension of a range of social services, including social security. The National Health Services, Education, Housing, Employment service ahd welfare services for elderly and disabled people and for deprived children.
2) The maintenance of full employment as the paramount aim and policy.
3) A Program of Nationalization.
It was these three strands together which constituted the welfare State.
As a response to mass democracy, the welfare state can be viewed as stemming from demands for greater e q d t y and recognition of social rights to welfare services and socio-economic security.
As in India, the picture of a 'democratic republic' which the preamble envisages is the democratic system not only from the political but also from the social sdndpoint. In other words, it envisages not only a democratic form of Government but hternity also a ' . democratic society, infbsed with the spirit of 'justice, liberty, equality and
This democratic republic which stands for the good of all the people is embodied in the concept of a 'Welfare State' which inspires the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Liberty The idea of liberty has been the most powerful weapon in the hands of the unarmed and it has defeated the strong enemies of dictators and imperialists. The term liberty is derived from the Latin word liber that means free. Sometimes it is identified with the absence of restraint-a negative meaning. Sometimes it is identified with the availability of certain socioeconomic conditions in which manlwoman may develop . their personality-a positive meaning.
Equality Equality does not mean identical treatment to all. It means proportional equality- equal among equals and inequality among unequals. The basis of treating equals and unequals should be rational and just.

In different social systems, there are different conceptions of justice. The main difficulty in defining justice is that it is not an independent concept. Justice is closely associated with the system of values and the behaviour of social systems. Every system is governed by certain norms and values and these in turn determine justice. With the change of time and circumstances values undergo change that brings a change in the concept of justice also.
The state provides the largest number of educational institutions in our country. The state in India, through its Constitution had laid ''permanent provisions" of education for minorities, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Under the permanent provisions of the Indian constitution, No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the state or receiving State aid, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them [Article 29(2)].
Further, all- minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the fundamental right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice [Art. 30(1)1 and the state shall not, in
granting aid to educational institutions,
discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language [Art. 30(2)].
Finally, it is the duty of the state to provide free and compulsory education (Art. 45.).The state shall endeavour to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living and to improve public health and to prohibit consumption of liquor and intoxicating drugs except for medical purposes [Article 471.
Nationalism Nation - States are associated with the rise of Nationalism, which can be defined -
as a set of symbols and beliefs providing the sense of being part of a simple political community. Thus, individuals feel a sense of pride and belonging in being Indian, British, American, Canadian, or Russian.
Probably people have always felt some kind of identity with social groups of one form or another : their family, village, or religious community. Nationalism, however, made its appearance only with the development of the modern state.
Culture and Religion: The Indian state plays a significant role in safeguarding the religions. The unity and fraternity of the people of India, professing numerous faiths has been sought to be achieved by enshrining the ideals of a 'secular state' which means that the state protects all religions equally and does not itself impose a state religion.
This itself is one of the glowing achievement of Indian democracy when her neighbours such-& Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Burma, uphold a particular religions as the state religion. In India on the other hand the state will neither establish a religion of its own nor confer any special patronage upon any particular religion. The state shall not compel any citizen to pay any taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious institutions.
No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly provided by state funds. Every person is guaranteed the freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate his own religion. Where a religious community is in the minority, the constitution goes further to enable it to preserve its culture and religious interest.
According to Article 29 of the Indian constitution, the state shall not impose upon it any culture other than the community's own culture.
Such community shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of its choice and the state shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against such an educational institution maintained by a minority community on the ground that it is under the management 0f.a religious community [Art. 301.
Caste and Politics Caste is gradually taking up new forms and functions, leaving its traditional ones. It has specially become more influential in the field of public life and politics. It is playing an important role in India in political matters.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Counting the Poor: The Changing Concept of Poverty

Eradicating Poverty is the Prime Goal of Development

Reduction of extreme global poverty is the first and the most important Millennium Development Goal – of the 8 goals set in 2000. Reducing, alleviating or eliminating poverty is increasingly seen as a prime goal and measure of development. The traditional definition of poverty in income terms leaves economic growth as the only option for poverty removal. However, observations from around the world tell us that economic growth alone can’t eliminate poverty.
Poverty research of the past 4-5 decades also points out that poverty in not purely an economic issue; it has several other dimensions covering social, political and cultural spheres of life. The income definition of poverty, though simple, tells very little about the hardships faced by the poor. Other viewpoints have emerged that see poverty as a situation of “shortages” of several things in life. The concept of poverty is now no more confined within the boundary of economics and has expanded to include the social, political, cultural and personal dimensions also.
If we leave the “expert” definitions of poverty and try to see how the poor view their situation, we get another useful perspective on poverty. They see themselves mostly as vulnerable, marginalized, excluded, and deprived. The question they would like to ask is: What can you do to reduce our hardships of living and enable us to come out of deprivation, exclusion and vulnerability? So if “their” life needs improvement, policymakers need to modify the usual top-down approach and pay heed to the inputs coming from the powerless poor stuck at the bottom of the society. Thus, it makes sense to understand poverty form as many perspectives as possible.
In addition, researchers are also increasingly realizing that economic growth alone is not “development” and that the concept of “development” needs to be more broad-based and people-centric if poverty has to be actually rooted out. The concepts of poverty and development are increasingly aligning – so that poverty is now more rightly seen as “shortfall in development.”
I am "Absolutely Poor"
I am "Absolutely Poor"

Critique of the World Bank's $1.25 Poverty Line

According to Lant Pritchett, an ex-World Bank economist, “It is a "successful failure" and has done more harms than good. It has been a failure in terms of achieving the objectives of improving human well-being in the world. It has put the focus on philanthropy more than long-term development and has thus failed to promote prosperous economies. Even if the benchmarks of $1.50 or $2 are used, they are still very low.”
Question: Why doesn't the World Bank work on its $2-a-day poverty line and operate on a greater scale?
It can't claim lack of funds looking at the trillion dollar war budgets of its donor nations.

Absolute Poverty

“The absolute poverty is defined by reference to the actual needs of the poor and not by reference to the expenditure of those who are not poor. A family is poor if it cannot afford to eat.” – Keith Joseph, 1979
According to the United Nations’ 1995 World Summit in Copenhagen,"absolute poverty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services.
The Traditional Concept of Poverty
Poverty is commonly associated with lack of income - you don’t expect a poor to have money. This is the traditional way to look at poverty. Seen in money terms, the logical question is: how much income would make a poor non-poor? However, “income” itself is no less problematic a concept than “poverty” and is closely related with other resources such as assets and access to public services besides earnings from employment. People are considered poor when they are deprived of income and other resources required to obtain basic things of life – food, shelter, material goods and services – that enable them the opportunity to live without hardships and play the role, meet obligations and participate in the family and social processes.
When poverty is seen from the “subsistence” perspective the nutritional or food aspect takes priority, although allowances are made for clothing, fuel and other items. This gave rise to the concept of subsistence poverty line – people with income below the poverty line are poor; in fact, they are extremely poor. This idea was actively applied by the colonial powers in their colonies for setting wages and framing development plans. It suited them perfectly well because the colonized people were only meant to “work” that needed replenishment of their energies through some minimum food intake.
The Word Bank’s $1.25-a-day benchmark of extreme poverty is a widely used poverty line. On this yardstick, an estimated 1.2 billion people in the world were found to live in extreme poverty in 2010.
However, such as a “subsistence” poverty line is criticized because it considers mainly the physical needs of people. People are not simply “entities” needing replenishment of physical energy needed to work; they are also social and cultural beings and have to perform other roles as parents, neighbors, friends, partners, and citizens.
Basic Needs Approach
In the 1970s, a somewhat wider concept of poverty emerged in the form of the “basic needs.” It added two elements in the “subsistence” model. First, it included the minimum consumption needs – adequate food, shelter, clothing and some other essentials of a household. And second, it added services provided by the state or community such as safe water, sanitation, public transport, medical and education facilities etc. It, thus, established at least some basic framework for community development. Like the subsistence approach, it also sees the poor as passive numbers whose needs are to be met through polices designed by the “experts.” However, the ease of its implementation makes its attractive to policymakers. It played a prominent role in the developmental plans fostered by the international agencies such as the UN’s.
Both these approaches consider poverty in absolute terms and limit themselves to material and physical needs only. Although it is easier to restrict the poverty perspective to material and physical needs, people’s lives have other dimensions that extend into the realm of social, political, cultural and rights. It helps to keep in mind that human lives can’t be simplified to the level of policies that the government can plan. Certainly, the complexities of development programs increase as more dimensions are added; besides, it also brings the issue of quantification and measurement that policymakers like to avoid. In this sense the income poverty lines are the simplest, though they tell nothing about the nature of shortages poor people live with.

Society can Dictate “Necessities”

“By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even the lowest order, to be without. . . . Custom . . . has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them.” - Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations
After all people are social beings and are affected by the judgment of the society. Therefore, the relative poverty moves in response to changing social expectations and what used to be luxuries can become necessities. Being a member of a certain society implies that one has to satisfy social obligations and expectations; not having the resources to do so means that one is in poverty.
Why should Rich Nations have Poverty?
Why should Rich Nations have Poverty?

Definition of Relative Poverty in Europe

Relative poverty is when some people’s way of life and income is so much worse than the general standard of living in the country or region in which they live that they struggle to live a normal life and to participate in ordinary economic, social and cultural activities.– European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN)
The EU’s Relative Poverty Standard
"People falling below 60% of median income are considered to be at-risk-of poverty."

Relative Poverty

The philosophical foundation of relative poverty is provided by Karl Marx, Our needs and enjoyments spring from society; we measure them, therefore by society and not by the objects of their satisfaction. Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature.
People are poor if they live with "resources that are so seriously below those commanded by the average individual or family that they are, in effect, excluded from ordinary living patterns, customs and activities." – Peter Townsend, a leading authority on UK poverty
People are “relatively poor” when their average resources or average living standard falls below the society average, which provides the reference mark. Thus, a person is considered relatively poor if his resources are seriously below the society average. Moving to relative poverty is in fact a shift from the “needs” to “wants” – people are poor if they “want” to live like others but can’t. Now the measure is “the deficit in the living standard”, compared with the society average. The philosophy of relative poverty is common in the developed nations, since they have progressed beyond the point where people are no more struggling for basic survival needs.
Relative poverty is also seen as inequality. It will be always present in any society, no matter how much it progresses. Certain sections of the society will always perform less than others. So, relative poverty can never be eliminated and it remains the same if there is a general decline in prosperity across the society. However, if there is more equal distribution of income relative poverty falls.
Make us Capable and strong.
Make us Capable and strong.
“The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world... all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them.” – Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi Nobel laureate of 2006 and founder of the Grameen Bank to help women and poor through micro-credit
Micro-credits have helps 10 million Bangladeshis move above the $1.25-a-day threshold of extreme poverty.

Capability Poverty

The capability approach of Amartya Sen expresses poverty in terms of deprivation of people’s capabilities – referring to what we can or cannot do, can or cannot be. It sees income, resources and public facilities as mere means to achieve or expand human capabilities. In laymen’s language, Sen’s approach aims to make people more capable in terms of their skills, physical and mental abilities.
Expanding capabilities increase well-being and shrinking capabilities decrease well-being. The set of capabilities needed to escape poverty is rather limited. Thecapability poverty is typically lack of capabilities related to satisfying basic needs of food, nutrition, health, shelter, etc. In the capability approach, expansion of people’s capabilities is the prime goal – income and resources and facilities have no meaning unless they enhance human capabilities. Consider this simple example.
Having access to a bike can enable the capability of mobility, if a person uses it properly. However, mere ownership of the bike doesn’t tell what the person can do with it; a handicapped person may not be able to use the bike. Therefore, the important point is not the commodity or its features, but the ability to use it.
As mentioned above, when Adam Smith argued that leather shoes became social necessity in order to avoid shame in the public, he was referring the capability of avoiding public shame. As societies get richer and richer, the commodities required to “avoid shame” also increase. Being poor in such societies mean lacking the capability to “avoid shame” because the poor lacks the capability to “afford” all those commodities. There is certainly a strong psychological component here because the “needs” are dictated by social customs (and people’s degree of obeisance). This is not the case in the context of basic needs; for example, the poor lack the capability to be well nourished, or to move about freely, or to live in a good shelter, or to be free from diseases. But there are no social custom motivating people to take care of such needs.

The Human Development (HD) Approach

In order to understand poverty in this approach, we have to first understand what human development is. Poverty is just the opposite – shortages in human development. The HD idea revolves around the basic theme: “People are the real wealth of a nation.” The basic objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to live long, healthy and creative life – as stated in the firstHuman Development Report (HDR)published in 1990.
It was also developed in the 1980s after noting that handing over economic growth to market forces alone and curtailing the role of government in the economic activities led to increased poverty. It combines the elements of the basic needs and capability approaches and defines the human development as a process of enlarging people’s choices. The most critical choices relate to leading a long and healthy life, to be educated and to enjoy a decent standard of living. Other choices include political freedom, guaranteed human rights and self-respect.
A key aspect of HD is that it sees people as ends, not means; incomes and resources are taken as means, not ends. In practice, it focuses on the “basic needs” type goods and services but also give importance to other issues such as freedom, environment and society. It is open ended, and considers everything that may affect human potential, so that different societies can focus on what is important for them. It accords widening human choices.
In terms of advantages, it goes beyond the “basic” of the Bangladesh approach. It also goes beyond physical conditions and material needs to institutional and political elements. It simplifies the concept of capability approach to include “choices” and “freedom”. It has become the rallying point for all those seeking human-focused and humane alternatives of the usual “economic growth” as development.
As a further step, the HD initiative also came up with an alternate measure of development in the form of the human development index (HDI) which combines life expectancy, literacy and adjusted income. The HDI is an important milestone in trying to measure human well-being in terms other than per capita GDP or income.
Since the first HDR in 1990, every year a different human development theme is picked up for the report and the global scenario is presented. These reports have greatly impacted the national policies and provide fresh perspective to look at poverty. It has brought into focus the importance of issues like women empowerment and literacy, income inequalities, inclusive growth, social exclusion etc as major impediment to human development.
In 2010, a multidimensional poverty index (MPI) was launched that analyses poverty through a set of 10 indicators. It has been adopted as an effective policy-making tool by many countries around the world. The World Bank should also adopt a similar ideology, in place of its $1.25 a day poverty line, and undertake global poverty eradication at a much more comprehensive level.


In the 21st century, rapid changes are taking place all over the world – even in the economically underdeveloped countries under the wave of globalization and IT and communication technologies. The poverty standard of income devised in the historical past is no longer relevant under new conditions. People today are no longer subject to the same laws, customs and social order of the bygone era.
Globalization and easy connectivity is exposing the ultrahigh inequalities between the rich West and the poor East as well as the unjust world-order. That makes people of the economically backward nations aspire for speedier and equitable development of their societies. More than just economic growth they want development of people and societies and governance structures where they can make their voices heard and steer the direction of development. It is time for the international financing agencies to realize these new aspirations of people and stop acting like proxies of the donor countries. The poor of the world need development, not charities. The rich West too has to shift their role as condescending donors to equal and responsible partners in development. More importantly, they too should move from the narrow confines of “GDP led economic growth” to more comprehensive human development.

What makes People Poor?

Poverty is a State of Multiple Deprivations, not just an Income Problem
Poverty can't be understood in Monetary terms alone.
Poverty can’t be understood in Monetary terms alone.
Poverty is a state of multidimensional deprivations, including income. If the state of well-being implies comforts, lack of well-being (shall we say ill-being) characterizes the state of human suffering – called poverty. The poor live in a state of continuous discomforts, agony and insecurity due to a variety of deprivations – food, clothing, shelter, health and education, social exclusion, and so on. The suffering can vary from mild to extreme when the poor are simply battling for survival. They are in a state of chronic hunger and under-nutrition and are at the risk of losing their lives.
People, particularly in the South Asia and the sub-Saharan Africa, know what it means to live with chronic hunger, under nutrition and malnutrition. United Nations’ 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aim to curtail the state of extreme deprivations still widespread in, what the so-called “developed world” used to call, the “third World”. South Asia and the sub-Saharan Africa are currently the biggest pockets of world poverty and hunger in the world.
What makes the poor so helpless that they are forced to live in deprivations?
The answer is simple: lack of capabilities and freedom, according to 1998 Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s theory of development and poverty.
Poverty is Deprivation of Capabilities
Why are we poor?
Why are we poor?
Amartya Sen sees every person endowed with a certain set of capabilities. It is simply a matter of realizing these capabilities that will enable people to raise their standards of living, and escape poverty. Thus, human poverty is nothing but a state of capability deprivation. It also shows up as “lack of being able (incapability) to earn sufficient income.”
What people are “capable” of becoming or doing (achieving) is influenced by many factors: economic opportunities; political liberties and social powers; health conditions and access to medical facilities; access to education and level of skill development; mental and emotional framework; and levels of motivation, encouragement and initiative. It is clear that people’s capabilities are influenced by psychological, social, and political aspects. Now environmental factors are also emerging as another aspect that can’t be ignored, resulting from global warming and climate change issues.
In this light, poverty at the most basic level, is a deprivation of human capabilities. Expanding capabilities increase well being and shrinking capabilities decrease well being. The set of capabilities required to escape poverty include basic capabilities as to have enough food, to be sheltered, to be clothed, to have good health and education, etc.
If in today’s world of sheer abundance people are living in poverty, they are living in a state of capability deprivations coming from lack of freedom. This approach also recognizes the presence of poverty in the economically rich countries, again in terms of deprivation of capabilities.
Human Capabilities
Our school has toilet !!Amartya Sen’s arguments revolve around increasing people’s capabilities so that they can enhance their well-being and escape from poverty. What are these capabilities? Consider a commodity such as a bicycle which has the characteristic of movement or transportation. Having a bicycle gives a person the capability of movement in a certain way, not possible without it. However, mere possession of the bicycle does not ensure such a capability, say if say the person is handicapped or does not uses it for whatever reason. But using the bicycle gives him the ability to do various things which will reflect in the standard of living. It is immaterial how he got the bicycle; it could have come from his own funds or gifted in some public welfare scheme. Similar arguments apply for any other item or a facility; say a computer and an Internet connection. If a person uses them, he becomes capable of doing things not possible in their absence.
Apart from physical resources there are other things that affect capabilities. Discrimination is a ubiquitous problem that excludes the poor from society’s activities and processes. This social exclusion reduces people’s capabilities that can lead to or sustain poverty. In societies with high gender bias women are at disadvantage; their freedom to move and participate in social activities is badly curtailed. It results in their loss of capabilities, making them more susceptible to poverty. Other examples are found in the racial discrimination of African Americans and Hispanics in the US or of the lowest caste people in India. As a result, poverty in these groups is higher than the society average.
Age is another factor that becomes important for the elderly. They need more frequent medical attention and resource support to maintain their health and mobility; when denied they begin to experience loss of capabilities. This makes them vulnerable to poverty.
The poor can’t afford education and medical services on their own; having access to state facilities enhance their capabilities. Similarly, if the hurdles to their economic, social and political participation are removed they become more capable to take care of themselves.
Need to Rethink “Development”
What is Development?
What is Development?
Sen’s idea of capabilities can’t be properly understood without first revisiting the concept of “development”. Today when people talk of progress or development they are merely talking of “economic development” which simply means expansion of the economy in terms of GDP growth. People play the role of producer of goods and services and also the end consumers. It is basically a production/consumption oriented progress – produce more and consume more, and call yourself developed. People are supposed to be more “developed” if they consume more. [Isn't it funny?] The standard of living is seen in the context of consumption of goods and resources – it is input driven. Everything is seen in the context of resources measured in money terms.
While standard of living is certainly important because it provides material well-being, people’s well-being has many other dimensions apart from economic – after all they are psychological, social and political beings. Therefore, the primary focus of development should be people as human beings, not mere the economy. It means shifting from the resource driven “economic development” to end-result (well-being) focused “human development”.
In this broader framework, Amartya Sen’s human capabilities approach offers a more fundamental measure of progress and development, and also of poverty.
Development is Enhancing People’s Freedom
Sen proposes that people lose capabilities when they lack freedom. Having freedom provides the space to develop capabilities. Therefore, all development, according to Sen, is development of human capabilities in the enabling environment of freedom.
Sen proposes that expansion of individual freedom is the goal of development; freedom is also the principal means of development. In this context, poverty is a state where people’s freedom is badly constrained which results in their loss of capabilities. Therefore, development also means removing the major sources of “lack of freedom” such as the poverty; all forms of discriminations – racial, religious, gender or community based; neglected public facilities and poor infrastructure; lack of economic opportunities; social exclusion and political marginalization; and policies limiting human rights; and so on. In many societies where there is ethnic tension, we can surely include “the fear of violence or terror attacks.”
Freedom provides the necessary space to acquire capabilities and use them to make one’s life better the way one wanted. It is particularly relevant for the poor for its enabling and empowering impact.
Interestingly, the tiny Himalayan kingdom Bhutan follows a holistic approach to development that is attracting worldwide attention. Bhutan follows the principle of “gross national happiness‘ which includes several aspects of life such spirituality, culture, good governance and environment apart from economic well-being. This is perhaps the best model of sustainable development – given the looming climatic crisis around the world. India should consider it rather than habitually looking at the west for guidance.
Income Poverty Vs Capability Poverty
Indian Subsistence Farmers
Are we suppose to be poor?
The traditional income poverty and Sen’s capabilities poverty are not entirely distinct from each other. In general, increasing income improves the capabilities of people and vice versa. Basic essentials like education and health directly improve the quality of life and capabilities; they also improve the ability to earn more. Factors like age, gender, social roles, location, etc do affect the relationship.
The issue of unemployment offers an insightful comparison between income and capability poverty approaches. If unemployment only meant loss of income, it could be compensated by some form of income support (say, unemployment allowance), but in reality lack or loss of job has much deeper impact on a people’s life than mere economic loss. It might include psychological damage, loss of motivation and self confidence, stress, depression, increase in ailments and morbidity, etc. The income poverty approach is blind towards such “human sufferings” which are clearly picked up by the capability approach through their adverse impact on the capabilities.
Conversion of income into capabilities is an important issue, particularly for the poor. For example, alcoholism is widespread in some poor communities and if the income earner habitually spends it on drinking he is doing nothing to improve his or family’s capabilities. On the contrary, he might be degrading his capabilities. A better use would be to raise the nutrition level of family members (but that needs awareness and information, which the poor often lack).
Similarly there are other situations where good income does not automatically ensure better capabilities. For example, in the discriminated sections of society, say for instance, the lowest caste community in India even good enough income does not automatically ensures social or political equality. In such cases, belonging to a discriminated community becomes a disability (and a cause for reduced freedom).
Gender inequality is another hurdle when the income distribution within families is considered. In patriarchal societies male members always have the first right, leaving the females members rather deprived in everything. This deprivation ultimately shows up in the data for mortality rates, morbidity, literacy, undernourishment, medical-neglect, etc.
Poverty Reduction involves more than Economic Growth
The fact that higher economic growth does not automatically translate into lower poverty, is clearly observed in the development status of different provinces of India. There is a unique state in the southern part, Kerala, which has achieved faster reduction in income poverty despite rather moderate economic growth. It relied on the expansion of basic education, healthcare facilities and equitable land distribution to counter poverty. In comparison, the northern state of Punjab focused on economic growth and became prosperous, but also has higher poverty.
Likewise, though the economic reforms in India have opened up the economy throwing new opportunities but the social backwardness did not allow majority of Indians join the growth story. The support structure of high literacy level, quality basic education, good healthcare facilities, etc proved simply far too inadequate.
The message is clear: Anti-poverty programs must not focus on reduction of income poverty alone. Enhancement of human capabilities must also go hand in hand with the economic growth for it to be sustainable. The capability approach is more fundamental and comprehensive in nature as it shifts the focus from the means (resources) to the ends (human well-being), by putting the people in the center.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Social Work and Its Relationship to other Disciplines

Social work has been called a helping profession, a problem solving profession or an enabling profession. To qualify to be a profession, social work should meet several criteria. One of the major criteria is that it should have its own knowledge base (Greenwood,1957; 44-55). It should be able to produce knowledge and its practice should repeatly validate. Theories and concepts should be formulated which explain the relationship between various factors that influence human behaviour. Models for interventions should be formulated to solve problems. However social work, as it is a helping profession, has a major limitation in this area. Most social workers are engaged in practice with little time for developing theoretical perspectives. Social work academics are often criticized for producing research (knowledge) which is not of much use to practicing professionals.

Social work in the early period of growth depended to a large extent on knowledge derived from other disciplines like psychology, sociology, economics and political science. However since 1970s social work scholarship has broadened and deepened its scope. The profession’s self generated fund of knowledge has expanded substantially (Reamer in Reamer, 1994; 1). But this does not mean that social work’sengagement with other disciplines has reduced or limited. This chapter will give you an overview about the relationship between social work and other disciplines.
Evolution of Social Work as an Academic Discipline
Modern social work evolved in the nineteenth century to address the problems created by the emergence of the industrial society (Friedlander, 1967; 3). While it is true that all religious traditions had a history of individuals and institutions helping the lesser fortunate, it is only in the modern society that ‘helping’ became a profession and professional social work emerged. Professionalizing of the helping profession was both a consequence of change and a cause of social change.
The major changes that influenced the emergence of social work in the West were social, political and economic. The industrial society gave birth to a number of problems not seen earlier. Urbanization, and large scale migration of people from rural to urban areas in search of employment were some of the important consequences. Rural communities declined and so did the traditional forms of social control. People in the city often suffered from moral and material problems. Institutions like the family and churches which were earlier responsible for the welfare could no longer cope with the social problems. Modern social work had its roots when volunteers, mainly middle class white women worked among the poor and the destitute to alleviate their social and financial problems. However there was a growing realization that charity needs be organized to reduce costs and made more humanitarian (Desai, 2002). The Charity Organization Societies (COS) and settlement house were the pioneering efforts in this direction. The COS was founded in 1869 in UK and in 1877 in the USA. The COS used a number of ‘visitors” to investigate the clients who were considered needy by the voluntary agencies. This system introduced some form of order in the then prevalent chaotic situation in dispensing aid to the poor. Secondly the issue of treatment was introduced as the COS did not simply distribute aid but also provided social and psychological support. Therefore the COS visitors can be called as forerunners of the method –case work. Thirdly the formation of specialized agencies for coordinating and administering welfare services were widely used. The beginning of using a systematic method to deal with the poor can be traced to these movements. The settlement houses were started in 1889 in the USA. Settlement houses were agencies in which university students stayed with the poor to support them and at the same time learn about their life. The methods used by these houses can be termed as three Rs-residence, reform and research. Living with those who needed help reduced the distance between the client and the practioner. The COS’s major objective was to reform the poor by counseling and support while the settlement house aimed at understanding the poor and trying to address the conditions that caused poverty.
Another major influence was the growing social movements which took place during the nineteenth and twentieth century. Labour movements, socialistic movements, women’s movements and movements for racial justice were some of the most prominent of them. There was growing recognition of the rights for physically and mentally disabled, children, refugees and the homeless. Several social workers gave lead to these movements or were very much influenced by them. For example, Jane Addams who started the settlement houses in Chicago won a Nobel Prize for her contribution to the peace movements. Social workers were in the forefront of the efforts to pass legislations to protect the rights of the disabled, minorities and women. Another important factor in the emergence of professional social work was the growing role of the state in welfare programmes. The Social Security Act 1935 gave the responsibility of providing financial support to the vulnerable sections to the government. The welfare component in the government increased in most of the European countries. Professional social workers planned and implemented the welfare programmes giving the profession greater visibility and legitimacy.
Social’s increasing role in the society made it imperative that a formal system of education be created that would train social workers to perform their functions effectively. The first university to introduce formal education was Columbia University which offered a six-week training programme in 1896 for the volunteers who were working in the welfare sector. Gradually there were number of courses which were offered increased. The duration was also increased as subjects of study increased. Newcomer (1959) cites three developments that took place which facilitated the rise of social work education in USA (i) the development of social sciences as academic disciplines (ii) the establishment of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections and (iii) the establishment of privately sponsored women’s colleges and co-educational public universities (cited by Desai, 2002). By the early twentieth century social work courses became part of university system in the USA. However the content and duration of the social work courses were the subject of debate. In 1932 the Association of Schools of Social Work (AASSW) adopted a minimum one year curriculum that included prescribed courses of subject areas such as medical and psychiatric information research, social legislation and legal aspects of social work (Dnnear 1984 quoted in Reamer). In 1944 the AASSW identified eight areas which should be taught in social work courses such as, public welfare, social case work, group work, community organization, medical  information, social research, psychiatry and social welfare administration. The Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) was started in 1952 to regulate social work education. In 1962 it formulated the first formal curriculum policy which divided the curriculum into three areas like social welfare policy and services, human behaviour and the social environment and methods of social work practice. The next review in 1982 clarified the important role of liberal arts in the syllabus and identified five important areas: human behaviour and social environment, social welfare policy and services, social work practice, research and field practicum. Again in 1992, some new areas of concern were stressed including values and ethics, cultural and ethnic diversity, population at risk, human behaviour and social environment, social welfare policy and services, social work practice, research and field practicum. Presently there is a broad consensus in the US on the topics that need to be part of formal training in social work. (Reamer in Reamer, 1993, 1-12).
The International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) World census of Social work education 1998-1999 has given a global picture (Not including us)) of the topic of study in social work courses. four courses namely research, social policy, personal and interpersonal intervention and community intervention were offered by 68.7% of the schools and Social and Public Administration; Social History and Philosophy; Ethnic and Cultural Focus; Bio\Psycho\Social Theory; and Organizational Theory were offered by 50% to 54% of all schools out side the US. Social work curriculum represents the knowledge that has to be transfer to new entrants to the profession and maintains the standards of services. The existing curriculum can be divided into four components: (1) Human behaviour and social environment which will include the theories that explain social reality. This section of social work knowledge relies more on social science disciplines like sociology, psychology, history and economic, (2) Social policy, social welfare policy and social welfare administration. This section enriches itself from the policy sciences and public administration, (3) Social work practice. This section depends largely on the methods of social work namely case work, group work and community organization. Within these models, social work has evolved many intervention methods like task centered ecology model, (4) Social work research which centers around evaluating and assessing the effectiveness of the various means of intervention unlike the social sciences research which aims at dispassionate search for truth.
Along with the gradual recognition of social work as a discipline, there has been an increase in the number of books and articles related to its practice. Mary Richmond wrote ‘social diagnosis’ which described methods to understand and diagnose social reality. It influenced social work practice as it was among the first text to systematically describe the methods for practice. Similarly contributions by Grace Coyle, Mary Follet and others helped the growth of group work knowledge.
Social Work and its Relation to Other Disciplines
Social work is related to various disciplines. The areas like sociology, psychology and social policy are considered cognate disciplines of social work which has influenced social work. (Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, 1976 quoted in Dominelli, 1997)
Sociology and Social Work Sociology (Latin “socius” meaning companion and Greek logos the study) is the scientific study of the human society. It is called the science of society. All social sciences study human behaviour, but the content, approach and the context of sociology are very different from other disciplines. According to Inkeles (1999;14-15) sociology has three distinctive subject matters. Firstly, sociology is the study of society with society as the unit of analysis. Here it studies the internal differentiations and how they interact with each other and how they influence each other. It studies the allocation of functions to the different structures of the society. Max Weber, for example, studied the relationship between religion and capitalism and how the later helped capitalism emerge. Sociology also studies the external characteristics of the population and the rate and stage of its progress. The problems of the society are explained using these factors. Secondly sociology as the study of intuitions – political, economic, social, legal, stratifications, etc. It studies the features that these institutions share and the features that are different. Their degree of specialization and level of autonomy are also studied. Durkheim, one of the pioneers of sociology, called sociology as the study of social institution. Thirdly sociology is the study of social relationships. By social relationship we mean the interactions between individuals. Interactions between individuals are mediated by norms and values of the society and are intended to achieve goals.
The subject matter for sociology was collective behaviour of human beings. Society, community, family, religion, nation and groups are concepts that sociology investigates and studies. Its methods are considerably influenced by natural sciences. Even more importantly sociology studied the European society that was polarized and divided on ideological lines. The society was in danger of being disintegrated. Sociologists through their theoretical contributions were responding to this major crisis that they saw around them. They were suggesting the ways and means that societies could adopt to face the problems caused by modernity. Professional social work and sociology emerged in the European society in the nineteenth century which was the period of great changes in the society. Both responded to the crises caused by the changes in the modern society. They used the scientific methods to validate their means of work, gain acceptance and popular support. There were hard fought ideological debates within the adherents of each discipline so as to the best way to solve problems. For example in social work the COS approach and the settlement approach influenced the direction of social work. The COS favoured the person centered approach which depended on case work to resolve social problem while the settlement house favoured a structural change to resolve the problem. In different forms the debate continues so as to find the best way to resolve social problems.(Dominelli, 2004; 47)
But sociology and social work differ in many aspects. In Sociology the approach to society is theoretical and theory building is its major concern. Social work on the other hand has to be practical and deal with problems. So social workers spend more time in the field with people rather than in the libraries with books. Sociological theory is based on facts drawn from complex social reality. They offer precise cause to explain social phenomena. Often these theories are of little value to the practioner as many other factors come into play which should be taken into account to reach a realistic solution. On the other hand, sociologist find social workers work to be fragmented and oriented only towards the problem at hand. Another important distinction between social work and sociology is that the latter made claims to be a value free discipline. Being objective and free from bias was considered a virtue. Social work on the other hand is a value based profession based on humanitarian principles.(Johnson, 1998; 14)
Sociology has a significant influence on social work. The work of Charles Booth on poverty gave new perspectives
to the society. Sociological analysis provides theoretical perspectives that can subject policies and the work which practioners do to systematic analysis thereby enhancing our understanding of what is done and why (Dominelli, 1997;5). The following are the areas in which contribution of Sociology is significant.
1) The systems theory in sociology has been used in the ecological model of social intervention in which the client systems are seen as being part of the environment and being influenced by it. (Germain, Carel in Reamer(ed), 1994: 103)
2) The major three approaches of sociology – structural functionalist, Marxian and interactionist – have influenced social work practice. Marxist theories have helped social worker understand that conflict is part of society and that different sections in society have conflicting interests. These perspectives have helped social workers look critically at its own methods and see whose interests the profession is serving. Further they have enabled social work professionals to influence social policy by advocating for legislations and programs. The integrationist school has contributed to the understanding of sub-cultures and delinquency. Some of the key theorists and their concepts that have been significantly used in social work include Foucault concept of power, Marx’s class relationship, and Goff man’s closed institutions. (Dominelli, 1997; 82)
3) Sociological concepts like role, status, authority, power, rights, responsibility, groups, communities and nations are used in casework, group work and community organization which has enriched social work practice.
4) The study of family, types of families, changing roles of family members, changing functions of family and  its members, the problems and means to resolve these problems.
5) Problems of elderly and their solutions.
Psychology and Social Work Psychology (Latin psyche soul and logos study) is the study of mental processes and human behaviour. Psychology can be defined as the science of human and animal behaviour; it includes application of this science to human problems (Morgan,C.T. et al, 1993; 30). Being a science it uses the tools of observation, measurement and classification to study human behaviour.
Three main approaches dominate the field of psychology (1) Freudian and neo Freudian approaches. This approach gives importance to the unconscious part of the mind which plays an important role in determining the behaviour of the individual. Sigmund Freud is the main proponent of this approach but since then many others like Carl Jung have contributed to giving new direction to this approach. (2) Behavioural approach which takes behaviour as being learnt. Skinner the proponent of this approach advocated the use of empirical methods to study human behaviour. (3) The third approach is the gestalt approach which takes a holistic approach to the study of human behaviour.
Psychology is further divided into various specializations — clinical psychology, abnormal psychology, industrial psychology, counseling psychology, developmental psychology and sports psychology. While much of psychology is descriptive and analytical in nature. Psychology is also a practice profession. A variety of agencies employ psychologists for work related to recruitment, counseling and training. Clinical psychology provides diagnosis to mental disorders and prescribes therapies for their cure. The area of social worker and the clinical psychologist overlaps even in other areas like child development and there are common areas of concern also.