We had a lot of fun producing this book. The field investigations were stimulating in their own right, but all the more exhilarating because we were aware of being the first researchers ever to collect consistent, comparative information on how national elites perceive the character, causes of and remedies to poverty. It was just as invigorating to engage with one another and with numerous academic colleagues while designing the research and presenting results. Since the idea for the project was first explored in the mid-1990s, we have been quizzed and questioned in more conferences, seminars and meetings than we can recall. If there are deficiencies in this work, we cannot attribute them to any failure of our professional colleagues to engage with us. They have forced us to rethink, many times over, three main sets of questions.
The first were methodological: do we really know what we claim to know about elite perceptions of poverty? That question can be answered only by dealing with a range of more precise queries. What do we mean by elites? Did we sample them correctly? What do we mean by perceptions? How can we be sure that information derived mainly from face-to-face interviews accurately reveals’ true’perceptions? How reliably did we interpret the information that came to us in open-ended interviews? Why did we choose Bangladesh, Brazil, Haiti, the Philippines and South Africa as the sites for this research? Are our data really comparable among countries? Does it mean the same thing to be a member of the national elite in, for example, both Bangladesh and South Africa?