The Two Poverty Enlightenments:
Historical Insights from Digitized Books Spanning Three Centuries
Martin Ravallion, Development Research Group, World Bank
Available online PDF [52p.] at: http://bit.ly/i8VrJ1
“…Word searches of Google's library of digitized books suggest that two Poverty Enlightenments have occurred since 1700, one near the end of the 18th century and the other 200 years later.
The historical literature suggests that only the second enlightenment came with a widespread belief that poverty could, and should, be eliminated. After the first Poverty Enlightenment, references to "poverty" as a percentage of all words declined until 1960, after which a striking resurgence of interest occurred.
That came with rising attention to economics and more frequent references to poverty policies. Developing countries also became more prominent in the literature. Both enlightenments came with greater attention to human rights.
The written record reflects the push back against government intervention, as well as the retreat from leftist economics and politics since the late 1970s. Although many debates from 200 years ago continue today, there is little evidence that the modern revival of the classical 19th century views on the limitations of government has come with a repeat of the complacency about poverty that was common back then. ….”
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