Poverty politics. Reconceptualising economic growth in Durban, South Africa

Marx, Colin Edward (2007). Poverty politics. Reconceptualising economic growth in Durban, South Africa. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ea37


In this thesis I show how narrow representations of 'the economy' in urban poverty discourses and practices have channelled the attention of academics and policy makers in particular ways as they have attempted to address urban poverty. I explore representations of the relationship between poverty and economic growth by these groups to show how dominant urban poverty discourses and practices tend, at best, to place poor people in the informal economy or at worst, outside of the economies of cities. One reason for this is traced to poverty studies' understanding of poor people as independent units undertaking survivalist activities or livelihoods. However, thinking of poor people as making up dispersed sets of networks connected into a diverse economy opens up new spatial imaginations of the city and new possibilities for policies aimed at achieving social justice. Drawing on the example of the city of Durban, South Africa, I explore how thinking about poor people's activities in different ways makes it possible to move beyond formal/informal economy dichotomies which dominate scholarly and policy analysis. I demonstrate that poor people are already connected to, and are part of, economic growth processes and that these growth processes would not be possible without including poor people. The 'poverty politics' to which this research refers relates to ways in which it is possible to see and write poor peoples' economic activities into a broader story of economic growth.

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