This course has concessions available

On Poverty: An Interdisciplinary Course in Philosophy and Economics

What is poverty? Is it an inevitable evil? Are all kinds of poverty bad? How did some countries achieve prosperity, whilst others remain tragically poor?
We will discuss these and other issues concerning the nature and forms of poverty from the perspectives of economics as well as philosophy, drawing on some of the world's greatest thinkers.

Who is this course for

The course is for anyone interested in the nature and problem of poverty. It is designed to give an introduction to these issues both from a philosophical and an economic perspective. No previous knowledge is required but students must be interested and willing to engage with a variety of views and positions.

What does this course cover

Indicative Course Content:
- Poverty as constitutive of the social order: slavery and cast systems
- Poverty as a curse in the Torah
- The tribal injunction to help the poor
- Finding freedom in poverty, from Greek philosophers to Buddhist monks
- Voluntary poverty pleases the Christian God
- Modernity finds the poor responsible for their condition
- Foucault and the Great Confinement
- Escaping the poverty trap, pace Malthus
- The charities movement in the 19th Century
- Marx and the pauperisation of the proletariat
- The deserving poor, before Bismarck
- The reversal operated by the Welfare State: poverty as granting rights, rather than wealth as creating duties
- Why are they so poor?
- Peter Singer on finding a solution to world poverty
- Women and Poverty
- Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum on the capabilities approach

By the end of the course students should be able to:
- identify at least two theories which reason that poverty is a good thing, and critically analyse at least two reasons in favour of that position.
- outline at least three major moral problems, as well as three major political problems associated with poverty.
- analyse the differences between philosophical and economic reasoning with respect to issues concerning poverty.
- critically evaluate explanatory models of poverty.
- critically assess suggested solutions to problems of poverty.

What will it be like

The course will combine tutor presentations and lively discussions of texts and ideas.
At the start: Discussions and questions and answer will determine the level of student's knowledge as well as their expectations of the course and what they hope to achieve.

On the course: Student learning will be assessed through discussions and question and answer.

There will be opportunities for students to write an essay or submit other written work and receive feedback should they wish to do so, and there will be informal opportunities for students to discuss their progress.

At the end: At the end of the course you will be given the opportunity to complete a questionnaire / record of your achievements, which will be verified by your tutor.

What else do you need to buy or do

Pen and Paper, together with a curious and open mind, are the only requirements.
Reading the photocopied/emailed texts provided for the following class will be important for a more thorough understanding of the issues under discussion

What this course could lead to

Further study of philosophy and/ or economics.

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I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.

MWC student


This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

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Why come to Mary Ward Centre?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference.   We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening or weekend to suit your timetable.

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’