'To count for nothing': Poverty beyond the statistics

by Ruth Lister

14 Apr 2016
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Full text posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 3, pp. 139-165.

Abstract: Beyond the statistics that tend to dominate much public debate, a focus on the experience of poverty, drawing on psychosocial analysis, reveals its relational as well as material nature. The article explores this understanding of poverty with reference to the impact of the discourses that shame and Other ‘the poor’ who ‘count for nothing’. It argues for acknowledgement of the agency of people who live with poverty and the structural constraints and insecurity within which it is exercised. This, together with a human rights perspective, premised on a belief in human dignity, can help to frame counter-discourses of recognition and respect. The article ends with some brief reflections on implications for policy and the politics of poverty. 

Keywords: Agency, dignity, human rights, insecurity, Othering, poverty, psychosocial, recognition, respect, shame.

The British Academy Lecture, read 5 February 2015 (video recording)

Text printed 2016 in British Academy Lectures 2014-15

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