By Mark Peacock,
This theoretical contribution to poverty studies investigates Amartya Sen’s work as a basis for examining poverty. Sen discusses two social capabilities, each essential to the avoidance of poverty; one is the ability to appear in public without feeling shame, the other the ability to participate in the life of the community. This essay analyzes the intricacies of using the concept of community as a reference group for judging a person’s poverty, and it compares Sen’s use of this reference group with that of Adam Smith and Peter Townsend. The essay develops a notion of the “affluent poor,” which is a logical category of the capability perspective which Sen has developed. Although the affluent poor might appear to be oxymoronic, those who embrace the capability perspective should acknowledge it as a necessary implication thereof.
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