The present set of reading materials deal with a number of issues relating to poverty, its measurement, macro and micro level approaches of dealing with it, and best practices to lessen its effects if not to eradicate it completely.

While the articles Living Wage Considerations in the Right to Work State of South Carolina and What Do People Live On Living Wages In India undertake a macroscopic analysis of the issues discussed in the preceding paragraph, the remainder of the reading materials, viz., Good Clean Tobacco and Biocapitalism and The Social Course of Stigma in North Carolina discuss the effects of changes in marketing strategy within a single industry, thus taking a microscopic view.

However, the common thread running through all these works is that they are essentially employing deductive methodology of logic and reasoning. A methodology is said to be deductive if it uses several specific propositions to arrive at a set of general conclusions. In many of these works, the authors have attempted to undertake a study of particular cases or data at hand, to arrive at their conclusions. However, they have not, and it is submitted rightly, not attempted to quantify their work as a statistical survey or a work of numbers as if the task undertaken by them was nothing more than a science experiment done in the human laboratory of a particular locality or area. Such a departure is essential as sociology concerns itself with human behavior, among other things, which is often incorrectly labeled as scientifically logical and rationale.

A mention must be made here of the work done by Venkatesh. Venkatesh began his study with a pre-determined questionnaire and a predictable sample of people (Venkatesh, page 21). However, as he went along with his study, he realized that this questionnaire was relevant and held good only for a particular kind of sample of interviewees. Once a slight departure was made from that sample, the questions asked through the questionnaire were no longer relevant (by relevant, it is meant here that the questions were inappropriate as they were unable to solicit consistent answers from the interviewee). This being the case, he was urged to reconsider his methodology of research from a pre-determined questionnaire to an open-ended approach where only the broad parameters of research were kept in consideration, and a truly random sample of interviewees could be chosen.

Talking specifically about the reading materials, it might be a good idea to start with South Carolina. This is one of the poorest states of United States of America despite rising union memberships (Kingsolven, page 30). This state doesnt have in place an effective minimum laws regime (Kingsolven, page 38), although its Governor has seen through many legislations which are pro-business (Kingsolven, page 44). The debate over the need for a minimum wage law regime is an interesting one as it has law and economics implications.
It is argued that if there is a minimum wage regime, then some of the workers would have to be laid off as their marginal contribution to the employer would be below the minimum wage rate. However, those who are not fired would be encouraged to raise their productivity levels further as they would have an incentive of a higher standard of living. Thus, an overall picture of whether the presence of a minimum wage law regime would increase or reduce poverty remains a hazy one, depending from case to case basis and macroeconomic variables involved. Therefore, the argument for minimum wage legislation can be hardly said to have been convincingly made out. Pro-business legislations are justified on the reason that such laws are likely to bring in more business, which would definitely mean more jobs. More jobs are seen to have a direct relationship with employment levels. However, the logical flaw begins when employment levels are linked with necessary poverty reduction and improvement in standards of living. In such economic extension of variables, sociological factors such as exploitation of labor etc. are left out and not accounted for, due to which there is an anomaly. The state of South Carolina is an apt example of this anomaly.

Another anomaly in the case of state of South Carolina which is made use of by capitalists is the so called right to work (Kingsolven, page 36). The fact that this right exists makes the state prima facie look as least susceptible to labor exploitation and thus the subject of much fewer constitutional challenges. What makes the matter worse is the fact that the right is not intended to literally translate into a job for every workman. Instead, it allows workers to get a job without being a part of any union. Such a law cuts right into the heart of the unionization movement. It leads to lesser stronger unions in the state of South Carolina, and this coupled with lack of minimum wage legislation makes for a perfect recipe of disaster as workers lose all bargaining power.

The above anomalies in case of the state of South Carolina should be compared to the case of India. In India, the right to work is provided for only a hundred days while the American right is for the whole year (Channa, page 19). However, this right in India does literally translate into a guarantee of employment for that specified period. Thus, in this case, the advantages of employment viz. increasing purchasing power of the workmen can be fully seen. However, India does not do well on other parameters due to which its problem of poverty continues to be acute as well, though for different reasons.

For socio-cultural reasons and historical background in India, the remnants of the age-old caste system can still be seen today (Channa, page 15-16). While India got its independence over 50 years ago, these divisions in social classes have continued to survive, at least in the rural years, and this has come in way of effective implementation of right to work and minimum wage laws regime. Such a result shows us that it is not merely good enough to have a legal regime to remedy the problem based on economic theories (Channa, page 18-20). It is also important to contextualize the prevailing social conditions and to mould our measures and policies according to them, as otherwise they are likely to fail or be of very little consequence (Channa, page 21).

Next, it is important to consider the case of North Carolina. Here, the author Philip Morris has attempted to bring out, through a microscopic example (marketing of cigarettes), how social class and minimum wage legislation impact the business and standard of living in a particular market (Benson, page 367). Although the law changed the marketing process from public auctions to one year contracts between farmer and the company so that more stringent quality control measures could be implemented, the result was that illegal immigrated Mexican workers were employed on the fields to cut costs as they were willing to work for less than minimum wages (Benson, page 361). Again, this is an instance where only the relevant economic variables were looked at, and a change was brought about without looking at the social realities of the practical situation. Before such a step was taken, it should have been seen to it that the problem of illegal Mexican immigrants was solved.

It may be argued that at least the production of a considerably safer than earlier cigarette takes place now. However, it is submitted that this has only gone on to benefit the big corporations as such, who can possible increase their patronage. However, this has brought about adverse changes to the lives of many field workers who are now unemployed. Again, this case study highlights the importance of a sound minimum wage laws regime.

Finally, a word must be said about Venkateshs overwhelming work. His case study which revolves around an individual who though thorough his work might be damaging the health of many, provided important help to those in need (Venkatesh, page 45). Understanding this in the social context, it may be an outlet of purging of guilt of that individual. Moreover, not all his activities are acts of charity (Venkatesh, page 137). Many of them are based on selfish motives, others on convenience. However, in such cases, the internal, self-made rules seem to trump the societys norms or the formal legal system (Venkatesh, page 130).

To conclude, it may be said that poverty is one of the toughest problems to tackle both at the macro and the micro level, given its cyclical dependence on a variety of further dependant factors. At the same time, the importance of social factors should be overlooked, as otherwise the desired outcome is not likely to be achieved. Further, it may not be necessary that resort is always had to a formal legal system especially where implementation and enforcement is low. In such cases, it is the prevailing, social norms that usually overrule the letter of the law.      


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