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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the history of poverty research and the evolution of the practice of gathering knowledge about the poor. It distinguishes between poverty research and poverty knowledge, suggesting that the convergence of the two was a historically specific development that first began to gain wide currency in the late nineteenth century in response to the vast and increasingly visible disparities of industrial capitalism in Western Europe and the United States. It also situates poverty research within the politics and social organization of knowledge and considers the influence of broader contextual factors, such as the creation, expansion, and subsequent restructuring of welfare states in Western industrial democracies; the geopolitical imperatives of empire, decolonization, and the Cold War; and the official declaration of the War on Poverty in the 1960s. Finally, it explores how poverty knowledge was reshaped by the economic, political, and ideological transformations associated with the rise of neoliberalism.

Keywords: poverty research, poverty knowledges politics, social organization, welfare states, decolonization, Cold War, War on Poverty, poverty, neoliberalism

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