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Thinking Allowed - Poverty & shame, and small scale technology

Updated Tuesday, 25th March 2014

This week, Laurie and guests explore the link between welfare and shame; and how small technology made major transformational changes in modern India.

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Detail from a Singer sewing machine patent Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Public Domain image via WikiCommons Each week, BBC Radio 4 and The Open University come together to consuider the big stories in social sciences. Laurie Taylor and his guests consider the latest research and what it tells us about how we live today.

In this week's programme, Poverty and 'Shame'. Shame was once described as the 'irreducible core' of poverty by Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen. Laurie Taylor looks at new cross cultural research which  examines the psycho-social consequences of being poor in countries as diverse as Britain, Pakistan and South Korea.

Elaine Chase, Research Officer at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at the University of Oxford, considers the way that shame and stigma have been experienced by British people receiving welfare aid throughout history. She found that feelings of unworthiness, guilt and shame were common. In the current day, her study found that poor people accepted that 'other peoples' poverty was the result of personal failures rather than structural factors. The only alibi for their present circumstances was to deflect blame on to the 'undeserving' poor.

She's  joined by Sohail Choudhry, Research Assistant, also at the University of Oxford, whose Pakistan based interviews offered a contrasting perspective. Pakistanis on the 'breadline' also felt shame, but were also more inclined to blame the government and the 'big guns' for their reduced state.

Also, Professor of History, David Arnold, describes the impact of small scale technology on modern India. How the sewing machine, bicycle and typewriter reinvented every day life and work leading to new ways of thinking about the politics of colonial rule and Indian nationhood.

This edition of Thinking Allowed is first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on March 26th, 2014. For further broadcast details, and to listen again where available, please visit





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