Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 11/Feb/2013;7(2):161-6.
Unraveling the Relational Mechanisms of Poverty
The book Opportunities and Deprivation in the Urban South by Eduardo Cesar Leão Marques explores and analyzes a dimension which is traditionally considered secondary (and frequently ignored) in poverty studies: the relationship between sociability configurations and the (re)production of diverse conditions of poverty.
Based on a robust and rigorous empirical research with 209 individuals living in poverty situations and 30 middle-class individuals from the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo, the book is organized into seven chapters structured in the following way. The first chapter revisits a generous amount of literature devoted to the topics of poverty, segregation and social networks and seeks to build an analytical perspective that aims to show the central argument of the book in conceptual terms, namely, the importance of sociability relations to explain the (re)production of poverty. The second chapter has a more descriptive character as it presents the urban structure of the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo and the locations and methodological procedures of the research. The third chapter characterizes the networks of poor individuals and their relation with various attributes, revealing their heterogeneity, and an analysis of the existing similarities but especially the differences in comparison to the social networks of middle-class individuals. The fourth chapter furthers the understanding of heterogeneity concerning the sociability of poor individuals by constructing two typologies (one based on network characteristics and the other on individual’s sociability patterns). The fifth chapter discusses the role that networks and sociability play on the social situation of individuals, focusing on how networks mediate the access of individuals to various markets (goods, services, labor etc.). The sixth chapter continues the analysis of the role of networks and sociability, but now focusing on the access to goods and services by non-market means, which operate within the relational webs in which individuals are embedded. The seventh chapter, at last, identifies and analyzes the relational mechanisms that explain the relations observed in previous chapters between the different configurations of individual’s social networks (and their changes over time) and poverty conditions marked by significant heterogeneity.