Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 15:52:24 -0400

In message <199610161823.OAA29801@unf.edu> Ronald Kephart [me] writes:

> CNN today reports that about 24% (don't recall exact figure)
> of Americans are living below poverty level, the highest rate in the
> industrialized world. Second place goes to Canada, with about 12%. Does
> anthropology have anything to say about this?

Actually, what I misunderstood when I first head the newscast was that these
figures represent percentages of CHILDREN living in poverty. The figures were
more like 22% for the US, about 12% for Canada, and about 2% I think for
Finland. CNN pointed out that Japan was not listed at all; it would be
interesting to know whay some countries were included, others not.

And, regarding those poverty figures, In message
<m0vDvoa-0004FjC@a.stu.athabascau.ca> "Arthur L. Baron" writes:

> With all due respect to past threads, I don't think it is a
> question of a level of consciousness, but more a question of a level of
> ethics which does govern and guide our social behaviours. A question of
> wisdom, what have we learned in the past 2.5 million years of social
> consciousness. I do know that entitlements changed when the horticultualists
> started to stake out claims of land and division of labour became an
> exploitable commodity.

I would only add, as a fine tuning of the above, that while horticulture
certainly started the ball rolling, probably more intensive agriculture was what
really made the difference. This is a start, it seems to me, on what,
anthropology has to say about modern life. From the ethnographic record we know
that poverty is not a necessary component of human society, that it occurs in
certain types of societies and under certain conditions. We know that poverty
is in the main a structural feature of societies, not the result of insufficient
genes coding for the entrepeneurial (sp?) spirit or some sort of original sin
that only the non-poor have managed to atone for. We can show that there have
been and are humans living in what looks to us on first glance as poverty, i.e.
without much in the way of material goods, and yet who lead fully human lives,
rich in kinship and other social interactions, rich in language, religion,
humor, and folklore, which means that "poverty" is relative within a social,
economic, and political context (which may be quite far-reaching, in some

Lost my train of thought. I'll post this and look for your comments.

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida