Culture of Poverty

Topics: Sociology, Poverty, Mental disorder Pages: 2 (734 words) Published: December 18, 2012
Critique the culture of poverty thesis
Oscar Lewis introduced his idea of “a culture of poverty” in 1958. He developed the theory as a result of his work with the poor in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Culture of poverty is defined as a set of beliefs and values thought to exist among the poor which prevents them from escaping poverty (Browne 2010). For the purpose of this assignment the culture of poverty thesis will be discussed and the impact of poverty on the individuals mental health. The culture of poverty theory suggests that it is the traits of the poor themselves, which sustain poverty and social exclusion. Lewis argues that the culture of poverty is a “design for living” which is passed on from one generation to the next. The components of the design for living include, individuals feeling marginalised and inferior, there is a high rate of family breakdown and a lack of participation in social institutions (Haralambos & Holborn 1995). Lewis maintains that fatalism is a fundamental feature of the culture of poverty. Fatalism is a set of beliefs which consider that everything has a fixed outcome, which cannot be avoided, and must be accepted as a fact of life (Scott & Marshall 2009). These attitudes and behaviours make it difficult for members of the culture to break out of poverty as they are not able to take advantage of opportunities that may be offered. The poor are socially isolated and the majority are hostile to social services and educational institutions that might assist them in alleviating their poverty. Individuals within this culture are pessimistic about the future; they seek instant gratification when they have money (Zastrow 2009). Therefore they spend and enjoy money while they have it and never think about saving for the future which results in them being incapable of breaking the cycle of poverty. Poverty can be categorised into absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is when an individual’s biological needs for survival are...
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