Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Poverty: Cash and/or Status?

Posting about Status Poverty over at Into the Machine, but thought I'd cross-post here as I feel it's an important and useful concept. In summary, John Hutton has done me a favour by confusing cash poverty with status "poverty". In doing so, he's brought up an interesting and far-too-overlooked field. Just how is happiness related to both status and money?

The classical economic perspective assumes that happiness = getting most for your money (partially because turning things into numbers makes it easier to measure and calculate). More "modern" approaches feed off psychology/psychiatry and the now-"blossoming" fields of happiness science and positive psychology. But IMHO, these are overly-scientific and concentrate far too much on both the positive side and the individual side - something which classical economics also suffers from. Such a focused view will only ever account for half (or maybe a third) of "contentment", because humans are inherently both individualistic and social. (I'd say that we are also intrinsically linked to the nature of experience/the universe, adding another half again. Something reminiscent of this post.)

Hutton's comments open up the idea of happiness as being informed by society as well. I'd need to go back and check, but perhaps this relates to Leary's second circuit of consciousness, the emotion circuit, linked to walking, height, position and status. Of course, Hutton tends to ignore such links between status and happiness altogether. He seems to be rather "classical", in this sense.

What's intriguing me now, as mentioned above, is the link between cash poverty and status poverty. What you want, what you need, and what you can afford are clearly all wrapped up into one somehow, and feed into what makes us content, but for now this identification is all that's ready to be written down.

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