Unformatted text preview: re increase the likelihood of reducing poverty. This is what gives poststructural reasoning contemporary relevance and practical significance. Causation What if we were to reverse the practice of producing analyses of causes and instead turned our attention to analyses of agency? In the case of poverty instead of asking of why poor people do not have money, we can ask the question why do certain sectors of the population lack access to nutritious food, good health, housing, and energy, and, who is available to engage these problems. Rather than theorizing from a distance, why not begin with who is affected, and what are their resources, skills, and competencies? Food, health, housing, and energy—these are all multiple sites of agency where we can act at scales correlated to our power. With this approach, the poverty discourse revolves around myriad agents and multiple sites of agency; it does not begin and end, as it does now, with the totalizing logic of the singular metanarratives of low income, free markets or class exploitation. An Aesop fable “But Who Shall Bell The Cat?” is worth recalling here. A group of mice met to consider what to do to protect themselves from a certain house cat that was decimating their numbers. Soon a young mouse announced a plan to hang a bell around the neck of the cat. If they heard the bell, the mice would have plenty of time to scamper to safety. The proposal met with general approval until an old mouse inquired as to who would hang the bell on the cat. Of course that was the end of that plan. The moral 23 of the story is that a solution is not a solution unless there are agents who can act on the proposed solution. The problem with conventional theories of poverty (and other conventional theories of social science) is that they lead to metanarratives, identifying “root causes” that loom in front of us like an impregnable immovable Rock of Gibraltar. As someone once remarked, to tell a poor woman in Bangladesh that the cause of her plight is international capital is like asking a drowning person to swallow the ocean to prevent from drowning. Such metanarrative causative logic robs people of the power of agency. Causation does not have a stable, delineated structure residing in th...
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- Winter '14
- Poverty, discourse theory, discursive aggregation, Discursive selection