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Discuss Two Sociological Theories Of Poverty And Why It Is Important For Social Workers To Develop A Sociological Approach To Practice.

2128 words - 9 pages

SociologyPoverty is an issue that many social workers are likely to address and tackle throughout practice. Cunningham & Cunningham, (2008) state that 'Social work service users are amongst the most impoverished people in Britain and for many, poverty defines their lives'. (p32) Poverty can result from a number of factors that include political, social and economic dynamics. This assignment shall be based on two sociological theories of poverty. The Individualistic theory; which blames the responsibility of being poor with the individuals themselves, and the Marxist theory which views poverty as a social problem that has been produced and reproduced by structural forces in society. This assignment shall explain why it is important for social workers to develop a sociologic approach to practice and consider how these two theoretical perspectives contribute to social workers understanding of this issue.Poverty is measured and defined in two terms: absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is based on the basic human needs that help to sustain life, such as food, shelter and clothing. Any person living in a situation where the basic needs of human beings are not being met are said to be living in absolute poverty. Relative poverty refers to a situation in which a person lacks the necessary resources to enable them to participate in the normal and desirable patterns of life that exist in their society. People, who earn less than 50% of the median income of their society, are classed as living in relative poverty. As societies become more affluent, standards for relative poverty are gradually adjusted upwards accordingly. (O'Donnell, 1992)The Individualistic theories of poverty hold the belief that people are poor due to their own inefficiency. Social and cultural factors are not totally disregarded, however more emphasis is placed on improper behaviours of individuals. The central ideology behind individualism is the belief that those who suffer from low incomes and poverty, do so because they are unable or reluctant to provide adequately for their own well-being. (Haralambos & Holborn, 1995)According to the 19th century sociologist Herbert Spencer, the poor were classed as 'lazy, and those who did not want to work should not be allowed to eat'. Spencer ascribed poverty to 'bad moral character', and argued that the state should intervene as little as possible. 'If the welfare system gave the poor more than an absolute, necessary minimum amount, laziness and moral decline would spread through the population. Individuals would be attracted to the easy life and as a result society would suffer and its economy would not be successful'. Spencer coined the term 'survival of the fittest', supporting the view that the deserving succeed and the weak and worthless fail, since it was no more than they deserved. ( individualistic theory proposes that to reduce poverty, policies need to...

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