Friday, November 25, 2022

Review of On Pauperism in Present and Past by Jan Breman

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Economics
Intriguing Connections = 1) What Poverty Means?, 2) The Persecuted and The Persecutors

Watch Short Review


“Remaining footloose and being prepared for shorter or longer sorties nearby or far away is not conditioned by an innate inclination to vagrancy, of which paupers stand accused wherever and whenever, but propelled by the dire need to scratch around for work hoping that the return will net enough for sheer survival.” – Jan Breman, Introduction, Page 2

“What the aid workers failed to do was give conclusive answers to questions about how things were to proceed from then on: how long the people would have to stay at the camp, who would actually decide that, where they would go from there, and where they could get more information on all these matters.  When the period of emergency aid came o an end, all the organizations that had provided it also disappeared.” – Jan Breman, Chapter 3: Clearing the City of the Undeserving Poor, Page 95

“When the union leaders filed a protest and met with the office-in-charge, he profusely apologized and confessed tat the charges against the workers were drummed up and had been instigated by the Superintendent of Police himself under pressure from wealthy residents of a posh colony nearby who experienced the ‘unruly mod’ daily gathering at the chowk as an eyesore, a nuisance to their comfort and privacy.” – Jan Breman, Chapter, Page 166



The Indian poor are not vagrants by inclination, but move around to find work.  Moving whenever and to wherever that work is found, while not knowing the duration of that work.  Their lives are immiserating, but they do survive.  The poor live in overcrowded conditions, without access to safe water and sanitation.  They lack education, and obtain information by hearsay.  Illiteracy exacerbates their marginality, and isolation from the society. 

Help to the poor can be provided by NGOs, but they tend to stay only as long as there is emergency aid available.  Not only is the help given to the poor limited, but there is also a dispute as to even help the poor.  A social Darwinism claim that care for the poor is counterproductive.  In an application of natural selection, that the unfit should be filtered out of society.  The poor are unwanted in the locations that they reside.  Many complain about them, and have instigated the police to invent charges against the poor, which has led to the poor being harassed and even physically assaulted. 



This is a difficult book to read.  Best for readers researching the history of poverty, and use as a source of practical information and examples.  Ideas about poverty come from various sources, but the context is limited to mostly within India. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How do the poor survive?
•How do the poor find work?
•How do the poor live?
•Do the poor have an education?
•How are the poor treated?
•How to NGOs interact with the poor?
•How is social Darwinism applied to the poor?

Book Details
Publisher:        Oxford University Press [University of Oxford]
Edition ISBN:  9780199464814
Pages to read:   257
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    1
Content          2
Overall           1