Rich Democracies, Poor People: How Politics Explain Poverty

Research output: Book/ReportBook

261 Scopus citations


This book advances a political argument for poverty. This argument is developed from explaining cross-national and historical variation in poverty across affluent democracies since the late 1960s. Specifically, institutionalized power relations theory is proposed as an explanation to counter the individualism that prevails in contemporary poverty scholarship. The book also develops arguments for how poverty should be conceptualized and measured, and offers a comprehensive study of poverty in affluent democracies. A variety of analyses are conduced to explain variation in poverty and to represent institutionalized power relations, liberal economic, and structural theories of poverty. Ultimately, the welfare state and Leftist politics emerge as the most influential forces on poverty. The book contends that poverty scholarship should focus less on the individual characteristics of the poor and more on the politics of poverty and equality. Rather than viewing poverty as the unfortunate by-product of labor markets or demography, poverty should be understood as a result of the power relations of collective political actors and the extent to which egalitarianism is institutionalized in the welfare state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages264
ISBN (Electronic)9780199870066
ISBN (Print)9780195385878
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Inequality
  • Institutions
  • Politics
  • Welfare state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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