Volume 43, Number 170,
July-September 2012

Poverty: Concepts, Measurement and Programs, Verónica Villarespe Reyes (coordinator) iiec-unam, 2010.

This work brings together the contributions of specialists who took part in the seminar “Contemporary Concepts of Poverty” convened and organized by Verónica Villarespe with the aim of analyzing and debating the issue of poverty from three fundamental perspectives: the concepts, the different methods used to measure it and programs to combat it. Accordingly the book is divided into these three large sections, including at the end, general commentary, with the aim of provoking thought.

Poverty is addressed from pluralistic perspectives, in a multi and inter-disciplinary fashion, ultimately to build a theoretical convergence and methodology.

The first section concerns the conceptions of poverty stemming from dominant economic thinking throughout different historical periods; Carlos Encinas Ferrer discusses the contributions of Luis Arizmendi, Paulette Dieterlen, Araceli Damián, Adolfo Sánchez Almanza, Verónica Villarespe and Ana Patricia Sosa, who have been fundamental for understanding the phenomenon. The study covers the genesis of capitalism to the neoliberal collapse and is interwoven with definitions of wellbeing, equality and socio-economic rights, providing evidence of the heterogeneity and complexity of the phenomenon.

The second section presents the different methodologies for measuring poverty. The method used helps determine who is considered poor and the depth of the poverty they face. The methodologies are in keeping with the contemporary concept of both poverty and the poor and define a society’s standards of living, establishing the dimensions, conditions and characteristics that classify a person as poor. Julio Boltvinik Kalink, José Vences Rivera, Sergio de la Vega Estrada, Carlos Brambila and Carlos M. Urzúa contribute to this section with analysis and proposals for one-dimensional and multidimensional measuring, examining in addition, exclusionary poverty, dismissing the concepts of food and capability poverty used to identify a population facing poverty. Patricia López Rodríguez writes the commentary, revealing the added value and weaknesses of the subject in question, the aim being to highlight the advances in measuring poverty.

The third section is called Programs Combating Poverty. Here, social policy is studied, particularly programs challenging poverty. The analysis and reflection on these contribute almost irredeemably to the debate between the two main focuses of social policy: universalism versus particularism. Here, the specialists Leonardo Lomelí Vanegas, Enrique Contreras, Rafael V. Rangel González, Werner Voigt and Genero Aguilar, with general commentary from Gabriela Barajas, define and highlight the peculiarities of each focus. Thus presenting how, from the 1970s in the twentieth century, a focus on policies and programs emerges to combat poverty, justifying themselves in greater efficiency and equity in social policies and consolidated as the dominant focus from the Washington Consensus onwards. In light of the evident crisis providing a defining framework in social policy, the authors make suggestions based on a renewed, universalist focus. One of these proposals is the so-called Basic Universalism.

As well as the texts which make up the three large sections reviewed, the work includes a compact disc containing all the presentations from the Seminar, the discussions that took place at each of the tables and the support materials used in the presentations.

This book offers a wider treatment of the phenomenon of poverty, by studying the concept, how it is measured and programs introduced to combat it, although as Verónica Villarespe points out, “the structure of the book shows that where a link may exist between these three elements, it is not linear: the concept of poverty can be defined in terms of its measurement and from here, a program can be devised to tackle it.” At the same time, we are invited to study in depth the theoretical sustenance of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs (cct) against poverty, such as the Progress Opportunities program in Mexico, which will contribute to clarifying the contemporary concept of poverty. Given that the programs break away from the current concept of the phenomenon, if different alternatives to the concept are put forward, the measure or measures, and consequently the programs, will need to be consistent with these concepts. Thus poverty and impoverishment (as a process) will take their rightful place.

The joint effort of all those who contributed to the text, and in particular the coordinator, fill a void that currently appears to exist in the debate on poverty, given that this debate is based on the resulting connection between measuring poverty and the program to overcome it: measurement substitutes, or better said assumes the place of the concept, and becomes indispensable for the operation of any program.

The book Poverty: Concepts, Measurement and Programs is a valuable contribution to theoretical and practical discussion and serves to clarify the issue surrounding this old enemy, which has not successfully been defeated: poverty.

Bernardo Ramírez
Institute of Economic Research -unam
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Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 192, January-March is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Feb 23th, 2018.
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