How the Poor Adapt to Poverty in Capitalism

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Drawing on a diverse literature from psychology, sociology and history, this study traces the ways in which those most detrimentally affected by the operation of the capitalist market economy manage their circumstances. Borrowing, begging, stealing, repair, emigration, family budgeting, second economy activity, solace and release are all explored. They are shown to have timeless and universal qualities underestimated by the political right with their emphasis on the poor’s intellectual weakness or cultural deviancy, and by the left in the hope or expectation of resistance.


“Stephen Gilliatt confronts one of the most crucial yet perplexing issues of our time. . . . He offers a searing critique of those strategies of survival that are justified as undermining capitalism. In their place he identifies the ‘irony of coping’: as the poor become more adept in coping with the crisis of capitalism the more they contribute to its survival and to insuring the possibility of their remaining poor. This is a tough message and all the better for not being to everyone’s liking. The book will command wide attention as we increasingly recognize that globalization includes the globalization of poverty.” – Robert Benewick

“. . . a major contribution to the ideological debates that characterize social policy in contemporary developed countries. Its emphasis upon the ‘everyday’ coping responses of the poor to their situation repositions the view of the poor who have been often represented as a homogenous, largely passive population, in need of poverty relief and assistance, or as unscrupulous spongers on the system. . . . A major portion of Gilliatt’s book presents evidence to refute these stereotypes, carefully presenting the coping responses of the poor.” – Terry McGee

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface; Introduction
1. Poverty, coping and social theory
2. The capacities of the poor (the incapable poor and bad genes; incapable poor and deviant culture; capable poor)
3. Types of coping (universality; augmentation of resources minimisation and cutting of expenditure; management of stress)
4. Rationality and coping
5. Consequences of coping
6. Conclusion: resistance, coping and adaptation
Bibliography; Index

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