Elites, Poverty and Public Policy

Published on 1 January 2005

Much of the time, the realists are probably right. The question of how often they are right cannot be settled through social science research. We simply do not have the analytic tools or the data to determine the answer. That does not prevent most of us having views on these issues. But those views reflect our ideologies, prejudices and passing intuitions. Suppose that the realists were actually wrong much of the time, on all counts? Suppose that elites did perceive reasons to try to reduce poverty and inequality; 3 that changes in ideas or political culture in some sense did help change their willingness to act; and that these changes in political culture could be achieved through conscious agency? We would want to know about it, and to see whether there were opportunities to influence public policy. We have one good case: a detailed account of political culture and public policy in late Victorian Britain, written by the distinguished historian Gertrude Himmelfarb (1991), which argues the anti-realist line on each of the three points. Using her words as far as possible, we will summarize her interpretation of the influence of Charles Booth.


Naomi Hossain

Research Fellow

Mick Moore

Professorial Fellow

Publication details

published by
Zed Press
Hossain, N. and Moore, M.P.
Reis, E and Moore, M


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