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It might be more that 'natural' and 'social' are also socially constructed narratives. The histories of these ideas have sharp edges, and both have not a little ideological baggage - most obviously Marxist theory eventually evolved in the 'Everything is social' direction, based on the (false) assumption that culture is completely plastic and can be engineered to order.

Anthropologically, cultures reliably tend to converge on certain structures. These seem to be innate, but can be modified by tool-use and resource-use - less so by narratives, which are more likely to disguise them than truly change them.

Generally, the more abundant the environment, the less rigid and hierarchical the culture. (As a very over-simplified generalisation.)

I have a very simple definition of poverty, which is that it's the opposite of freedom. The US cant about individual freedom is exactly that, and confuses potential freedom of a rich minority with the much more limited freedom of the 99% of the population.

Freedom includes freedom from starvation, thirst, and so on. But it also includes freedom to educate yourself, and contribute socially.

Having to scramble for cash is not freedom. You could argue that from this point of view, poverty is much more widespread than is usually accepted.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Nov 14th, 2006 at 05:48:52 AM EST
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I have a very simple definition of poverty, which is that it's the opposite of freedom. The US cant about individual freedom is exactly that, and confuses potential freedom of a rich minority with the much more limited freedom of the 99% of the population.

Freedom includes freedom from starvation, thirst, and so on. But it also includes freedom to educate yourself, and contribute socially.

Having to scramble for cash is not freedom. You could argue that from this point of view, poverty is much more widespread than is usually accepted.

This is essentially the point that Amartya Sen puts forward in Development as Freedom. I just got my copy back after leaving it in a friend's garage in California for 2 years, so maybe I should dust it off and write a review.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 14th, 2006 at 05:56:32 AM EST
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For me Poverty is like Value, Quality and every other aspect of our Reality.

ie it cannot be defined except in relative terms.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 14th, 2006 at 11:07:01 AM EST
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A corollary to which, I might propose, is that a society can only be said to be "free" insofar as such freedoms are directly enjoyed by one and all of its citizens. No one is free of want for food is we accept that want for any one of our fellows. And so on.

For me, this is very simple, manichaean even.

And indeed, as you say, if poverty is the opposite of Freedom, then in many parts of the "West," we are as poverty-prone as you hint.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Tue Nov 14th, 2006 at 06:31:27 PM EST
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I have a very simple definition of poverty, which is that it's the opposite of freedom.

That sounds very right to me:  I was going to say, Poverty is the inverse of choice.

Generally, the more abundant the environment, the less rigid and hierarchical the culture. (As a very over-simplified generalisation.)

Interesting.  Can you provide some examples or pointers?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Tue Nov 14th, 2006 at 10:49:00 PM EST
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