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John Kenneth Galbraith’s incisiveness, clarity, and wit are here brought to bear on the central aspects of the most important economic and social problems of our time. The Nature of Mass Poverty proceeds from the author’s conviction that most explanations of conditions in poor countries do not explain. They reflect, instead, the experience of the rich countries. Or they create cause out of cure: Capital and technical expertise being available from the rich countries, shortage of these became the cause of poverty in the poor.
The author substitutes an explanation based on intimate experience with the poor countries and their history—on the tendency for men and women to become locked in an equilibrium of rural poverty and to accommodate to the inevitable. He then goes on to policies that would break this equilibrium and best serve those who escape from its grip.
Professor Galbraith’s prescription follows rigorously from his diagnosis, and some of it—concentrating effort on those who have rejected accommodation; the role he assigns to migration—will occasion sharp debate. Few will have doubts as to the cogency and vigor with which he argues his case.