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date: 21 January 2020

Summary and Keywords

The discourse on poverty emerged in the context of capitalist industrialization and political debates on pauperism, and more specifically with the introduction of the Poor Laws whose principles on welfare and relief were firmly based on the idea of forging a system of wage labor concentrated on the male breadwinner. A major implication was the significant place occupied by the nuclear family in the field of poverty as welfare studies. Since the 1980s, feminists have made significant contribution to poverty knowledge by engaging with debates on gender, poverty, and social justice. The feminist critique of poverty knowledge formed part of a broader challenge to the androcentric and culturally specific assumptions of mainstream knowledge systems. In this context, Amartya Sen’s capability approach has been a major influence. Feminists introduced new conceptions of poverty that broaden the definition of poverty from basic needs to functionings, capabilities, assets, and livelihoods and a dynamic notion of vulnerability. Some key contributions of feminist poverty knowledge has been the deconstruction of the neo-classical concept of the household, the emergence of the care economy as a significant element in the experience of poverty, and the emphasis on subjectivity, agency and the notion of trade-offs. Feminist contributions to poverty knowledge have found particular resonance with the notions of care and justice. A greater challenge is how to frame care and justice within a global political society, given the power asymmetries between actors in the global framework.

Keywords: poverty, Poor Laws, welfare, relief, feminists, poverty knowledge, gender, social justice, care economy, agency

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