Poverty – Concepts, Measurement and Critiques

The course will try to build a humanistic perspective to understand the multidimensionality of poverty and the lived experiences of the poor.

Poverty has always been central to the development discourse. Right from the times of Aristotle and now in the formulation of sustainable development goals, discussions on understanding, measuring and alleviating poverty have always dominated the nature of the discourse.

There have been different approaches to understanding poverty. In the most general sense it is measured as the lack of basic needs’, which includes material needs such as food, shelter, basic health care, education etc., as well as non-material needs such as political freedom and security.1 While these are important for living a dignified life, the relative importance of these needs may vary from person to person, based on her/​his social definition and past experiences.2 There are also certain socio-political structures that perpetuate poverty, and these can be further understood by looking at the discourses on
social exclusion and vulnerability. 

Although poverty as a term has economistic origins, defined narrowly as lack of income, the discussion on poverty and deprivation has now moved towards the broader paradigms of well-being and dignity of life. This necessitates adoption of a multidisciplinary lens to understand it. The course will also try to look at the policy paradigm which has been adopted to achieve poverty reduction. Such a policy paradigm has played a significant role in not only in livelihood enhancement of the poor but also determining the livelihood choices.