Austerity amidst Affluence: Cross-National Contrasts

Monday, July 14, 2014: 8:00 PM
Room: Booth 56
Oral Presentation
Gregg M. OLSEN , University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Austerity amidst Affluence: Cross-National Contrasts

Poverty has long been one of the most pressing social problems across the nations of the wealthy, advanced capitalist world.  The poverty in wealthy countries is not on the same order of magnitude as in many less developed parts of the world, where grinding impoverishment is ubiquitous, and its impact and death toll staggering.  Yet poverty is not only a ‘Third World’ concern.  It is often suggested that many poor people in wealthy lands would be considered relatively well off if they were living in a poorer developing nation.  But they are not, and the social and economic circumstances of the poor in rich nations often requires a much higher level of income, and access to many additional goods, amenities and services just to reach similar levels of capability and inclusion as those of many poorer people in developing countries.

This paper examines this urgent issue in Canada, the UK and the US where, despite their great prosperity, the rates, severity and consequences of poverty have intensified under neo-liberalism.  It also provides cross-national contrasts examining poverty in the Nordic nations which, despite notable increases in inequality and social policy restructuring, still outperform their Anglo-American counterparts.  This paper also critically examines dominant and popular theoretical perspectives and explanations that have been advanced to explain how poverty is generated and sustained and assesses the possibility for its eradication.