The culture of poverty in India

by Siddhartha

Most of the communities in the entire Indian sub-continent (such as the Bengali one) succumbed to the "Culture of Poverty" (Oscar Lewis), irrespective of the class or economic strata, and whether they live on the pavement or in an apartment.

Nobody feels any regret at all or is ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, the decaying general quality of life, one of the worst politico-administrative system, weak levels of literacy and knowledge of our own mother tongue, continuous absorption of common social space (both mental as well as physical). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by mindless and blindfolded procreation (supported by some lame excuses). Simply depriving their children of fundamental rights for a decent, caring society as well as a fearless & dignified life.

No one's ever looking for any other positive alternative behaviour (e.g. values) to perform a more human form of parenthood, i.e. they're all deliberately parenting children born out of ignorance and extreme poverty. It seems that all of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct. If the Bengali people are ever able to obtain that genuine freedom (break free from the vicious cycle of poverty) in their own lives/attitude, and involve themselves in the "production of social space" (Henri Lefebvre), if they initiate a movement by heart, dignity & dedication, politics will definitely come up.

Comments for The culture of poverty in India

Average Rating starstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 12, 2012
by: Angry

A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing. Before you engage in lamenting in the usual, tireless manner about "oh how bad our country is!", consider the following:

1) Oscar Lewis made his theory at a time when the Western world literally believed that "Christian Values" were the only means by which an economy succeeds. He wasn't alone, a lot of scholars felt that way. Isn't that similar to how the colonialists treated the natives in India?

2) Thankfully, proponents of Lewis' theory and other such narcissist blokes were left speechless when Japan started developing fast. Followed by China. Followed by the rest of South East Asia. Followed by India! How do "Christian values" explain how India's progress is fast? Read Amartya Sen on this, he has a lot to say about culture and development.

3)Oh, so just because we have flaws, India as a whole automatically becomes bad? And no other nation has developmental flaws? The Mafia in Italy? The cases of racism in other nations? Sure, we're bad, but just because a foreign body stamps the word "developing" on us doesn't mean we become a notion full of idiots. Just because people cannot afford an iPhone, doesn't mean they can't be happy!

I know India has its drawbacks. But we've done VERY well given the situation we're in. We could do better of course, but we could also do worse. Unlike China, we do have a democracy, a POSSIBILITY of social justice! Unlike smaller nations in India, we have our big metropolitans.

But what's disgusting is that you chose to take one view of the whole world! That too a world view that is IMPOSED on us. And it's that kind of bigoted view that's pulling us back in our development.

Jul 27, 2011
Great story & concept of culture of poverty
by: Dario

Thanks for your submission Siddhartha!
It really feels like it was written with all your guts. The situation is pretty desperate there's no doubt about it when you think about the millions who not only live in poverty but are also maintained in this state by traditions and indeed a "culture of poverty".

This is a tremendously interesting concept. I like how you oppose it to the right to dignity (which is what absolute poverty is about in the end) as well as the importance of a "decent, caring society".

After all we're all in it together right? Why promote societies based on certain kind of competition (for resources), on driving people against each other. Aren't we all here to lead a good, decent, happy life ? Aren't we entitled to this much? But in these times of crisis it seems solidarity is a notion of the past.

But India's no doubt an amazing country and society (for the newcomer at least), and when you consider the thousands of years of poverty and cast system... it's pretty daunting! However I remain convinced (maybe naively) that it holds certain keys to our future especially on how to overcome the tradition vs. modernity clash.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to India.