poverty the lack of sufficient material and cultural resources to sustain a healthy existence. Most discussions distinguish between absolute or primary poverty and relative or secondary poverty. ‘Absolute poverty’ refers to a lack of the basic requirements to sustain physical life; the subsistence poverty of not having sufficient food and adequate shelter. BOOTH and ROWNTREE were amongst the first researchers to demonstrate the widespread incidence of absolute poverty in the UK. ‘Relative poverty’ is used to demonstrate the inadequacy of definitions of absolute or primary poverty by referring to the cultural needs of individuals and families within the context of the rest of society It is a relativistic definition which relates poverty not only to physical needs but also to the norms and expectations of society
The study of poverty is central to any examination of social inequality, including an analysis of who is poor and the reasons for their poverty. In the UK, there is no set ‘poverty line’ although some commentators use eligibility for, and claiming of, social security benefits as a measure of the extent of poverty Using this criterion, 17% of the British population, or about nine million people, were officially poor in 1986. However, this excludes all the people who were not eligible for social security support, those who did not claim support, those who were just above this arbitrary line, and those who fell into the POVERTY TRAP. Categories of poor people in industrialized societies usually include the unemployed, people in low-paid or part-time employment, the sick and disabled, older people, members of large families and single-parent families. Although the poor have often been blamed for their poverty, which is seen as the consequence of some form of personal inadequacy such as fecklessness or idleness, most studies explain the existence of poverty in terms of the social and economic structures of industrialized societies. Poverty studies have been criticized for not recognizing that poverty may result if the income of a man, although well above the poverty line, is not equitably shared between all members of the family; thus the burden of poverty falls particularly on women.
Just as poverty is seen to be an indicator of class and gender relations in an industrial society, so poverty has been seen as an indicator of unequal economic relations between different countries; the poverty of the Third World countries being directly related to the accumulation of wealth in developed countries (see UNDERDEVELOPMENT).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
poorest man in Arcadia, but happier than king. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 13]
West Virginia coal mining region known for its abysmal poverty. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 160]
apple seller on street corners during Depression. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 11]
symbol of impoverishment. [Folklore: Jobes, 181]
Bashmachkin, Akakii Akakiievich
one of many homes founded for destitute children. [Br. Hist.: NCE, 233]
poor clerk saves years for overcoat that is soon stolen. [Russ. Lit.: “The Overcoat” in The Overcoat and Other Stories]
nickname for poor French peasants. [Fr. Folklore: Walsh Classical, 59]
continually in and out of debtor’s prison. [Br. Lit.: Amelia]
religious leader exchanges wealth for the robe of an ascetic mendicant. [Buddhism: NCE, 387]
Clare of Assisi, St.
experiences modified and extreme levels of want. [Br. Lit.: Sketches by Boz]
lived entirely on alms; founded “Poor Glares.” [Christian Hagiog.: Attwater, 87]
Crawley, Rev. Josiah
Scrooge’s poorly paid clerk. [Br. Lit.: A Christmas Carol]
Francis, St. (1182–1226)
debt-maddened clergyman. [Br. Lit.: Last Chronicle of Barset]
Grapes of Wrath, The
renounced his worldly life and possessions, extolled the virtue of poverty. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewer Dictionary, 375]
about the Joad family; jobless, facing starvation. [Am. Lit.: The Grapes of Wrath]
economic crisis of 1929–1939, unprecedented in length and widespread poverty. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1132]
London street; home of indigent writers. [Br. Hist.: Brewer Note-Book, 394]
section of midtown Manhattan; notorious for slums and high crime rate. [Am. Usage: Misc.]
Hubbard, Old Mother
Depression shantytown arising during Hoover administration. [Amer. Hist.: Flexner, 118]
had not even a bone for her dog. [Nurs. Rhyme: Opie, 317]
lost everything he owned to Satan. [O.T.: Job]
turkey one-feathered bird even more destitute than its owner. [Can. and Am. Usage: Brewer Dictionary, 589]
satisfied with table scraps; dogs licked sores. [N.T.: Luke 16:19–22]
optimistic, though chronically penniless and in debt. [Br. Lit.: David Copperfield]
itinerant dust bowl farmers (1930s). [Am. Hist.: Van Doren, 455; Am. Lit.: The Grapes of Wrath]
Yellow Kid, the
on Poverty U.S. government program of 1960’s to aid the needy. [Am. Hist.: WB, J:120]
grotesque unchildish slum-child, one of the impoverished inhabitants of Hogan’s Alley. [Comics: Berger, 25]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Most spiritual paths respect or require material poverty so that spiritual wealth may be acquired.“Blessed are the poor, ” said Matthew in 5:3. In medieval times they called it a “perfect poverty, ” where the individual would give up material wealth and seek spiritual development. In Islam, this quest for spiritual development through material poverty is called “faqr.” If in real life you are not poor, dreaming that you live in poverty or experiencing great poverty in your dreams may be considered a dream of the contrary or a compensatory dream. Superstition-based dream interpretations would say that if you are poor in your dream you will gain material luck in the near future. Dreaming about poverty may be interpreted in light of what is going on in your daily life (as may most dream interpretations). Thus, if you are on an upward swing and are doing really well financially, you may have a compensatory dream of being poor. This is simply a way by which you obtain psychic balance. However, if you are experiencing financial stress, dreaming of being poor may be a way for you to cope with fear and anxiety that you are unable to cope with directly.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.