:A Cultural Perspective

By: Dr. Izzeldin Suliman

تخرج في جامعة الخرطوم، كلية الزراعة حيث حصل علي بكالوريوس الشرف في الاقتصاد الزراعي، تحصل علي درجة الماجستير والدكتوراه في الاقتصاد من جامعة فليبس في ماربورج بالمانيا. وعمل محاضراً غير متفرغ في نفس الجامعة. عمل لعدة سنوات مع الامم المتحدة في

اقليم كوسوفو في مجالات اعادة التعمير والتطور المؤسسي. يعمل دكتور عز الدين استاذاً للاقتصاد في جامعة استراير وذلك منذ انتقاله الي الولايات المتحدة في عام 2003م، وهو العميد الحالي لفرع الجامعة بمدينة فلادلفيا، ولاية بنسلفانيا. منحته الجامعة جائزة الامتياز للعام 2006م والعام 2007م علي التوالي، وهي تُعرف بجائزة “دونالد آر ستودارت للاداء المتميز”، وتُمنح سنويا ًلاكثر اعضاء هيئة التدريس في الجامعة تميزا، علي نطاق الولايات المتحدة الامريكية.

كتب دكتور عز الدين عدداً من البحوث والدراسات في مجال الثقافة والتنمية الاقتصادية، منها علي سبيل المثال “تداعيات الحكم المحلي فيما بعد النزاعات ـ دروس مستفادة من تجربة “مشروع لوقو” في كوسوفو، في 2002م، “فقر الشعوب في البلدان النامية ـ منظور ثقافي”، في 2001م. “تاثيرات تطوير منظمات العون الذاتي في افريقيا”ـ الثقافة : ذلك البعد المفقود ـ 200م. و “تأثير الثقافة في تطور منظمات العون الذاتي التعاونية ـ الحالة الافريقية” وكانت تلك هي اطروحة الدكتوراة وقد نشرت باللغة الالمانية.

The Meaning of Culture?1


The term „culture“ relates, particularly in the Western understanding, to the refinement of the mind and the relevant implications of such refinement like education and art. In sociological literature the term „culture“ explains a collective phenomenon. In the words of TYLOR, culture refers to „that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society“.(1) This latter definition of culture deals with the order or patterns of thinking, feeling, and actions of individuals of a given social group. It is not confined to those aspects of „cultivating and civilizing“ the individual alone, but also includes ordinary and menial things in life such as rituals of greeting, of eating, of fashion, emotional expression, etc. HOFSTEDE describes culture as having to do with the fundamental human processes, i.e. it deals with the things that hurt.(2)

These patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting are basically explicit and implicit systems of behavior, which every person possesses and which to be learnt and acquired in the course of a lifetime. This aspect of learning is the basic characteristic of culture. It is chiefly a type of collective learning, which is acquired and transmitted – mostly unconsciously – through shared symbols, rituals, norms, and values that are specific to a group (or category) of people. Both the early years of childhood, spent absorbing and establishing one’s value system, and the social environment in which one grows up are therefore important and in fact determinative in establishing the core of one’s cultural constitution firmly in its place.(3)

Thus, culture in its networking of „perception–action–perception” proves to be an essential constituent of human action.(4) The influence of culture upon human behavior acts as a filter screening out alternative behaviors, which are not culture-conform. In other words, the culture assumes that those kinds of alternative behaviors, which deviate from the norm will be sanctioned. Using the analogy of computer, those patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting which belong to a culture could be described as a „mental program“. Viewing culture as the software of the mind, suggests that human reactions, only in a specific framework, are likely and understandable.(5)Correspondingly, it is then useful to define the term „culture“ distinctively as „the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another“.(6) The two aspects of learning and Group-specificity, as distinctive characteristics of culture, draw clear-cut lines differentiating culture from, on the one hand, human nature inherited with one’s genes (representing the universal level in one’s mental software which all human beings have in common), and the personality of the individual (as a unique personal set of mental programs which one does not share with anyone else) on the other.(7)

Fig. 1: Three levels of uniqueness in human mental programming

Source:      Hofstede, G.: Cultures and Organizations, Software of the mind, London 1991, p. 6.

2. The relevance of culture to poverty
Poverty has always been viewed within the context of economic development. Unfortunately, when we speak about development, then in most cases we mean – implicitly – poverty alleviation. However, this statement tends to be more or less ambiguous due to the fact that there is no common agreement among scientists or development workers on the definition of the term „poverty“. What is agreed upon is the complex nature of poverty. This difference between various views and perceptions of poverty was theoretically overcome through the different typologies of the term, resulting for example in:(8)

·
individual vs. collective poverty: i.e. whether individuals (in the case of „new poverty“ like in Germany or USA) or groups of people with a common bond (e.g. an ethnic group like in some developing countries) are referred to;
·
subjective vs. objective poverty: i.e. whether deprivation is perceived on personal basis or whether objective criteria have been determined for the measurement of poverty;
·
absolute vs. relative poverty: i.e. whether the perception of poverty is based on a comparison to other individuals/groups or perceived in absolute terms of the individual’s minimum for existence;
·
rural vs. urban poverty;
·
present vs. future poverty: i.e. whether the poor is the present generation or the prospective generation, e.g. of street-children.

A common feature among the above-mentioned phenotypes is the manifestation of deficiency. These deficiencies, lacks, or deprivations could be of material/existential nature or of a non-material kind Material/existential deficiencies include factors of inequality, discrimination, oppression, domination, absence of entitlements, or inability to meet the minimum of necessities required for economic or biological survival as defined by one’s cultural frame of reference. This category could also include all other forms of deprivation, destitution, famine, homelessness, lack of access to educational possibilities, etc. Non-material deficiencies include lack of self-confidence or good fortune, not being loved or respected by others, being neglected or abandoned, etc.(9)

Thus the essence of the construct of poverty lies in this deprivation and detachment of people from the mainstream life in society. This statement, however, implies that a „poverty-line“ has to be determined, beyond which this minimum will not be satisfied. Therefore it emphasizes a socio-cultural frame of reference. This socio-cultural emphasis is derived from the relativity of the term „poverty“ which causes difficulty in its definition as long as definitional characteristics are confused with causes and manifestations of the phenomenon of poverty.(10) Furthermore, the cultural bias in the perception and measurement of poverty necessitates this relativism. And this is, above all, because socio-economic sciences themselves are culture-bound.(11) Leaving all other factors aside, the aspect of an individual’s perception of being poor is alone, multidimensional. The subject’s own perception of his condition is therefore needed in order to determine a proper expression of poverty. Self-perception of being poor is, in turn, greatly influenced by other’s view about the poor. These notions mentioned above indicate that different dimensions are mutually interactive in shaping the construct of poverty, whereby, in the end, they all correspond to the specificity of space-time to which they belong.

Globalization of the poverty-dilemma in the context of development economics has added even more abstraction to the conception of poverty. The problem of global poverty was correlated by the World Bank in one of its first reports in 1948 to the gross national product of a country. Countries with an average per capita income of less than $100 were taken to be underdeveloped and poor. On the basis of comparisons of national income, entire nations and countries have, since then, come to be considered – and to consider themselves – as poor. The national income (or the average per capita income) was consequently introduced as a new global measure for the various levels of wealth and poverty of nations.(12) Therefore, per capita income asserted itself as a frame of reference for poverty. This one-sided view has resulted in the misleading simplification in the perception of the phenomenon to the extent that poverty, as a multi-faceted human predicament was no longer embraced.(13)

Up until the mid-70’s, this mechanical perception and measurement of poverty corresponded to the growth-orientation in development and to the state of economic sciences. In relative comparison to the sufficiency in labor and natural resources, scarcity of capital had been assumed to be the major constraint to progress in developing countries. Theoretical approaches which concentrated on capital accumulation and ignored the role of distribution of wealth were supported by the thesis of the „trickle down effect“, which assumed that profits from economic growth would, due to market forces, permeate automatically to the poor. Further, it was supposed that government redistribution measures in favor of the poor would also force profits to reach this target group. In this regard, priority was given to the extension of capital stocks, to infrastructure and to strengthening of production capacities. In the long run the poor would benefit from the flourishing economy. It was supposed that income disparities that widened in the early phases of industrialization would become subjected to a reverse process of increasing equality in the later stages of economic growth. But, in real terms and within the context of growth-oriented development strategies the benefits of growth – even in the countries where economic growth took place – did not percolate through to the poor.(14)

The actual result of the growth decades was the marginalization of wider sectors and groups of the population. Lack of participation of these groups and sectors of the population in the development (growth) process had led to the perpetuation of poverty. The more the modern sector expanded, the greater the extent of marginalization of the majority of the population became. A state of mass poverty, particularly of the rural population, was ensued.

The genesis of this phenomenon of mass poverty provides a strong indication that culture does matter. In an evolutionary approach to societal development, members of society are seen as bringing their culture into play to be able to interact with each other. In this regard, it is worth-mentioning that they also take part in creating this culture. Collective learning (culture) is needed so as to enable the individual to interact with other members of his society and environment, and to facilitate and simplify modes of this interaction. This is particularly true when we realize that the simple individual human being is challenged by his confrontation with the infinitely complex universe. Culture has the function of reducing this complexity by relieving the individual/society from the knowledge of the cause-effect-relationships of each detail in life. Selecting and accumulating successful experiences in the specific society is conducive to the evolution of cultural patterns, which have to be followed without inquiring into the reason. Without collective rules of behavior the individual, who is less complex than his environment, does not manage to succeed in the challenge with his environment. Culture in this context has to be taken as part and parcel of the complex construct of life. Culture, then, lies at the core of the mechanism of the evolution of human society, and is all-encompassing. Such an approach to the phenomenon of poverty would enable us to realize the dramatic reversal of the traditional relationship between economy and society, which underpinned approaches of the great transformation. Modernizationuprooted indigenous societies from their socio-cultural origins and subjected them to foreign economic rules and frames of reference, rather than the other way round.(15)

3. Addressing Poverty in Cultural Terms
3.1 The relative importance of cultural constructs for socio-economic processes in indigenous societies
Within the context of determining factors that are responsible for the state of poverty in developing countries, one must realize and evaluate the relative importance of cultural constructs for socio-economic processes. This is because we view the problem of poverty in an evolutionary framework and try to identify elements, which give rise to the endogenous dynamics in the particular society.

When the individual in such an indigenous society, with his limited knowledge and ability, is confronted with the severe hardships of his environment, a state of stronguncertainty arises, which, in turn, influences his behavior. Keeping in mind the modest knowledge and abilities of the individual in comparison with the challenges of a highly complex and excessively demanding environment, such strong uncertainties, which threaten the existence of the collective community must be curbed. This occurs through the application of cultural rules of behavior. Accordingly, the free room for individual actions and behavior would be restricted in such a way that the safety and survival of the collective community should be secured. Deviation from the norm would expose the individual to hard social sanctions, which may result in his exclusion from the collective community.(16) These cultural-normative measures, concerned with securing the existence of the collective community, overshadow the whole autochthonous network and penetrate to the deepest and ultimate details of the composition of life in such communities. For example, Socio-cultural norms lay the foundations, for a strong hierarchy in the social structure, for a high degree of collectivism, and for determining the nature of entitlement of individuals, property rights and the type of ties for their identification and trust within the community. In this respect, entitlement in the form of property rights (e.g. land tenure systems), equality, participation and institutions – as concrete structures derived from the cultural constructs to serve problem-solving and restructuring of the environment –, which in turn are relevant to the institutionalized phenomenon of poverty, have to be comprehended at a deeper level; that is, from the perspective of culture. This refers to the fact that, due to the low degree of formalization and institutionalization in autochthonous societies, non-written rules of behavior and mental programs gain much more of weight in holding society in being and in enabling it to keep pace with change processes.

Because of this role of the value system in determining and/or influencing the individual and collective behavior in autochthonous societies through orientation on the one hand and sanctioning on the other, the role of culture in such societies tends to be crucial. One can observe the relative importance of culture in indigenous societies merely by recalling that these societies are often referred to as traditional societies. This implies that tradition is so essential in shaping the whole society that it becomes its distinctive feature.

In traditional societies, structures of family, kinship, legal and governance systems, production and exchange, agencies of education, and other numerous types of enterprises and organizations differ basically from those in complex (modern) societies where each of these institutions are functionally and formally distinct. In relatively simple societies the same functions may all be carried out within the context of the cultural order. From the perspective of poverty, aspects like equality, participation, modes of production and exchange and polity in indigenous societies seem to be subjected in their function to a different logic. In complex societies, the aspect of enlightenment as a mutative step in their evolution constituted the basis for their modernization and for the moulding of modern structures and institutions. Modern societies have undergone their own unique experience in evolution and history through which enlightenment and modernization have taken place. This enlightenment and its socio-economic consequences are missing in indigenous societies.

3.2 Culture as an instrument to interact with the environment and to cope with changeOur starting point from which to obtain a deeper insight into the phenomenon of poverty is always related to the inquiry into the nature and type of relationship between the environment on one hand, and the endogenous ability of the social system to acquire control over this environment as well as to enable it to cope with processes of change, on the other. Culture, in its form of collective learning, represents the interactive aggregate of common characteristics, which influence a human group’s response to its environment. This indicates that particular aspects of orienting andmotivating individuals of the group are implicit and are to be emphasized in this relationship.

Through the dialectics in the interaction between the social system and its environment, collective learning in the form of a spontaneous cultural order evolves, constituting simultaneously the instrument to perceive and appraise social reality, to communicate, and to restructure the environment from the point of view of the continuously changing wants and needs of the community. This represents a source for human creativitytowards solving problems that repeatedly emerge in the course of interaction with the environment.(17)

In analogy with biological evolution, culture represents the social genes in the process of selecting and accumulating successful practices and institutions, which will be retained in the social system and further transmitted within the context of collective learning.(18)This implies that culture lies at the core of mechanisms of increased complexity and ability of the social system in the challenge with its environment. The degree of complexity of the cultural system in the particular society indicates its potency in the dynamism of retaining control over the environment. Abilities and properties of a particular system in the form of attitudes of behavior, practices, knowledge, artifacts, etc., are to a great extent derived from viewing the world and from perceiving the environment. Through these abilities to act, the socio-economic system – or its individual and/or institutional subsystems – becomes enabled to produce innovations and to adapt to the changing environment.(19) In this manner we have to differentiate between cultures, which orient the system towards harmony with the environment and other cultures, which take their fate into their own hands and manipulate the environment. The latter manage to manipulate the environment through the „imprinting of culture on nature“(20) and through the application of innovative strategies(21) to reduce the complexity of the environment. The basis for acquiring these capabilities lies in the fact that search processes and orientation towards problem-solving are – in the latter – inherent characteristics of the cultural system. In less simple cultures the value system is oriented towards averting uncertainty so as to secure existence. Protection against uncertainties is the main feature of subsistence societies.

In the dialectical relationship between culture and environment, dynamics evolve through processes of variation, selection, accumulation, and retention of successful experiences. Practices and their underpinning normative set-ups, which do not cope with reality and change will inevitably die out. When the socio-economic system is deprived of this potency to come to grips with its environment, it will lose its ability to deal with change or cope with increased complexities; it will lose its orientation and will fall easy prey to its environment and the immediate nature. The productive capacity of the system will shrink continuously and the system may disintegrate. Impoverishment would be the consequent result of this whole process.

3.3 Mass poverty as an outcome of cultural damage In the conventional literature about poverty a number of different factors have been named responsible for causing poverty. „New poverty“ as a phenomenon in industrial countries differs, of course, in its essence from the phenomenon of marginalization of the masses in developing countries. This could be due to the difference in the context, where „new poverty“ mostly relates to structural unemployment in developed countries.

High rates of population growth, inability to provide adequate supply of food and services to meet basic needs, absence of lucrative employment opportunities, adverse climatic conditions, exploitation and ethno-political oppression are among the factors that generate the state of poverty. Manifestations of such causes have been subsumed instructural mass poverty, destitution, and conjunctural poverty.(22) Structural mass poverty refers to an economy bounded by the productivity of the constrained factor „land“. In such an „organic economy“, the dependence upon raw materials for food, clothing, housing and fuel for traditional industry and transportation could be taken as the main reason behind this structural mass poverty. Historically, especially after the industrial revolution in Europe, the new capitalist regime was believed to having escaped the problem of the fixed supply of land and of its organic products by using mineral raw materials. This paved the way for growth both in aggregate output and in per capita output.

Destitution remains a result of lacking labor power to work the land. Conjunctural poverty is linked to climatic crises or political turmoil, which in its most dramatic manifestation has taken the form of famine.(23)

In development literature, the phenomenon of poverty has been comprehended primarily within the framework of the transition of societies from agricultural to industrial. So poverty has been reduced to a natural (expected) state of inequality in income distribution in specific phases along the process of transition. Taking this aspect as the basis for the analysis will lead to the diagnosis of the problem of poverty as follows:(24)

·
poverty as an overwhelmingly rural phenomenon
·
the poorest 40% of the population are engaged in agricultural pursuits
·
this poor population, apart from its unskilled labor, is asset-less
·
what determines the course of poverty is the state of demand for and the productivity of their labor.

Consequent remedial approaches have competed between redistribution with, or beforegrowth.(25) Suggestions made in this respect included tenurial reform, education, labor intensive production, demand generating agricultural strategy, price increasing policies in favor of the poor, productivity increasing strategies investing in human capital, enhancing innovations and availing complementary assets, e.g. credit.

But these approaches are mostly structural, i.e. they ignore the specificity of the phenomenon, the historical context, and the inner potential of the corresponding social system to evolve and overcome poverty in the long run and in the course of the challenge with its changing environment.

In these previous – structural – approaches it has been quickly forgotten that developing countries, which were colonized have not yet overcome the „culture-shock“ of the colonial era. Colonization has, in cultural terms, penetrated the socio-economic structures in these societies by force and has shaken their cultural constructs to an extent, which – we have to admit – has not yet been brought to a close.(26) The main aspect to take into consideration in this respect is that the transformation of the structure in previously colonized countries did not take the form of an indigenous culture change. In the name of modernization, subsistence socio-economic structures with their value system oriented towards social security and protection against uncertainty were forced to integrate into the world economy through production for the marketplace, export and expansion of the monetarization of the economy. Modernization was, in this sense, identical to the expansion of the modern sector. This took place through the import of technological, educational, and informationalinnovations and the import of religion – Christianity –, which contained value systems which were incompatible with the autochthonous value systems of these societies. These imported structures, institutions and value systems were:(27)

·
exogenous, did not build upon existing structures and were culturally not easily absorbable
·
not conducive to appropriate and autochthonous evolutionary change.

This meant that competing foreign structures were superimposed in a damaging intensity. The preconditions for the viability of the autochthonous value systems deteriorated and lost their internal legitimacy. The evolution of the socio-economic system was disrupted and the indigenous value system and the traditional order disintegrated.(28) Due to the disintegration of indigenous system and structure on the one hand and the failure of creative reconstruction to take place on the other hand, a value vacuum, loss of direction and increasing lawlessness were the ultimate result.(29)This happened because the type and intensity of change were externally determined. The internal mechanisms of functioning and regulations in society – in broad terms „culture“ – were thus deprived of their viability or were damaged. In this context we also have to recall that the indigenous elites who took power after independence did not only inherit state politics from colonialism, but above all its system of thought and behavior. Cultural alienation could be, in some cases, much more harmful than adverse conditions of nature.(30)

The situation described above has led to the well-known problem of dualism: The creation of an artificially modern sector and a rural sector where the vast majority of the population lives. It resembles the situation of a periphery with an artificial center whose value system and structure belong to a culturally different soil. The periphery with its lost orientation due to parallel competing value systems has been, thus, marginalized. Standards of living of the masses of this peripheral society are deteriorating due to the withering of production for subsistence. Most of the destitute population living in the surrounding of the center has emigrated from the rural areas.

It might then be obvious that the so-called modern sector is an artificial one as the state apparatus, political and governance structures, economic institutions, etc. are imported and alien to the autochthonous culture. This would provide explanation for phenomena of spreading corruption, ethnic conflicts, manipulating democratic procedures, deteriorating performance in the industrial and services sectors and growing unemployment and inflation.  This argumentation would as well imply that the modern sector – the center – itself is experiencing great difficulties which, in turn, may have the consequences of marginalizing further sectors of the urban population and driving them into poverty.

4. Integrating culture into approaches of poverty alleviation
Predominant approaches in the analysis of the phenomenon of poverty and thus in prescribing means of alleviating poverty tend towards abstraction and reductionism. Cultural factors have been assumed, in relation to development and particularly to poverty, as non-economic or sometimes as given. The origin of such approaches refers back to the one-sided and mechanical theorems of growth. However, poverty in its institutionalized form refers to a complex, multidimensional and multi-layered problem.(31)The poor are only part of a set of stratification systems within the society. „The stratification position not only of the poor but of all groups and classes as well as their relationship to the distributive system, and the values, the norms, and sanctions that reinforce it must be the focus of attention.“(32) Following the acknowledgment that poverty has its roots in the structure, processes, and mechanisms of social reproduction, then a reshuffle in the order that governs ownership, distribution and utilization of productive assets, the distribution of roles, sanctions and power in society becomes indispensable.(33) This emphasizes the indication of how extremely complex the problem of alleviating poverty is, and how important it is that our approach should integrate a set of variables and policies in order to cope with tackling the problem. Aspects of encouraging innovativeness, increased productivity, demand generation, pricing, land tenure reforms in favor of the poor, etc. can be seen as superficial and abstract when considered separately. The European experience has shown that the problem of mass poverty was overcome in the process of the evolution of the welfare state.(34) The implication of this experience for the developing world would necessitate an updating of the context through taking into account the developments of the last two or three centuries, the state of technology, and the great mobility in information and resources, etc. which would add more complexity to endeavors towards alleviating poverty.

Within the context of poverty alleviation, interventions from the outside have often turned out to be non-viable in the long run because they remain largely confined to relief and humanitarian purposes, whereas entitlement as another component in this respect would provide a strengthening dimension.(35) „Interventions are rarely powerful enough to overcome the resistance set up by the remaining economic, social and political processes and institutions characteristic of poverty and inequality.“(36) In reality, the experience has shown that through intervention the interests of the privileged were first served.

Along these lines, by integrating cultural factors into a holistic view of development and poverty alleviation, the „putting people first approach“(37) represents the cornerstone whereas the „green house approach“(38) would constitute the second necessary component for success of efforts. If people do matter, then their culture matters too. By taking culture into account as the source for cognitive andmotivational abilities for individuals in the society, the choice in favor of theenlightenment model and against the model of social engineering has to be made.(39)The green house approach refers (contrarily to bureaucratic intervention from above), to creating suitable conditions for the socio-economic order to evolve and to grow from within its own logic, emphasizing that the system itself should manage to overcome its problems. It is a kind of bottom-up approach, which proposes revitalization of the autochthonous value system and acknowledgement of its development potential while viewing its difficulties as a part of the process of development rather than problems to be solved by high growth rates.

Consequently some interlinked aspects should be central to the approach, which could be briefly summarized as follows:

·
Strengthening cultural identity will substantiate the indigenous potential for evolution and development, will provide self-confidence and will empower the inner structures in society to get a grip on the problems and difficulties facing it.
·
Strengthening self-reliance because the process of evolution has to be carried by indigenous institutions. Grass-root organizational forms, e.g. cooperatives and other self-help groups are suitable vehicles to lead rural population out of poverty.
·
Participation is essential to the process of overcoming deprivation, inequality, and impoverishment. Culture is, in this context, a continuum that relates the past to the present and to the future. Along this continuum all members of society interact with culture and participate in creating it, if adequate social interaction is guaranteed.(40)

From the above mentioned inter-linkage of factors strengthening cultural identity, self-reliance and participation, more concrete implications for poverty-oriented development strategies would include the following:(41)

·
the use of local social organizations at community level or informal networks of the poor that are compatible with their norms, values and traditions and which enjoy their trust and credibility to avoid excessive risks, which the poor are always sensitive against,
·
the use of indigenous knowledge systems and processes/methods in management, decision making and self-help, concentrating on user-oriented approaches so as to enable and facilitate participation and commitment,
·
the creation of an atmosphere, which enhances pluralism as a potential source of more diversified and locally relevant solutions to problems, which in turn, will lead to greater willingness among the poor and will motivate them to take risks and adopt innovations,
·
the realization of the importance of the compatibility of innovativeness with tradition, emphasizing the indigenous forms of influence (e.g. hierarchy and collectivism in the social order, gender and uncertainty problems, perception of the dimension of time, etc.) to promote and sustain behavioral change,
·
the avoidance of treating the poor as passive users who live in an institutional and value-free vacuum. The poor and their socio-cultural framework should be involved in processes of designing and implementing development programs.

5. Conclusion
Cultural constructs and processes are usually not easily observable and are almost impossible to grasp. Possibly, this is the reason why it is difficult to detect and define a relationship between culture and poverty/development. Culture, as has been differentiated from human nature on the one hand, and from rational thinking on the other, represents the essential source for the interpretation and restructuring of the environment by humans. In the context of the relation between man, society, and natural environment, collective learning and shared mental programs constitute an instrument for man to communicate and to maintain control over his environment. Thecultural autonomy of a socio-economic system is indispensable for the system throughout its evolution both to interact with its environment and to gain the ability to cope with the processes of change.

Poverty in developing countries has to be considered within a framework of culture. Colonial penetration into indigenous societies, which in the name of modernization, tried to replace value systems that are oriented towards subsistence and social security, has led to depriving these societies of their cultural autonomy, to loss of orientation, and to the disintegration of their indigenous structures. Mass poverty, particularly of the rural population, – viewed as the reverse of development – was the result of such a value vacuum. Forced change from subsistence to monetary/market production should not be interpreted exclusively in agricultural or economic terms but it also has to be assessed in cultural terms. On evolutionary basis, the issue of development should be approached from the perspective that an indigenous system should be able to assimilate modernity, instead of being replaced by – presumably – comparatively more modern structures.

This should not lead to the belief that indigenous cultures have to be conserved, or that the current problems of developing countries are exactly those of colonial days; it is rather to acknowledge that the genesis of the phenomenon of mass poverty in developing countries is related to autochthonous cultures having lost their evolutionary dynamics, ability, and autonomy to cope with change. In this respect a reassessment of the (cultural) effects and consequences of colonization and of modernization approaches to development seem to be a necessity.

The integration of cultural factors will provide a more realistic dimension to approaches of poverty alleviation and will detect more fundamental factors, which influence inequalities and deprivation in indigenous societies.

By strengthening self-help movements and cultural identity, the participation of wider sectors of the population in the development processes becomes more likely. A hospitable climate of stimuli and incentives will help strengthen what already exists towards overcoming problems and will accelerate progress on the basis of what society already offers.

References
(1)
Tylor, E.B.: Primitive Culture, Vol.I, London: J. Murray, 1898, cited in Mukherjee, R.: Society, culture, development, New Dehli/Newbury Park/London 1991, p. 31.
(2)
Cf. Hofstede, G.: Cultures and Organizations, Software of the mind, London 1991, p. 5.
(3)
Cf. ibid., p. 4.
(4)
Cf. Mukherjee, R.; 1991; pp. 23.
(5)
Cf. Hofstede, G.; 1991, pp. 5.
(6)
Hofstede, G., 1991, p. 5.
(7)
Cf. ibid., pp. 5.
8)
Cf. Marburg Consult for self-help promotion (Ed.): Möglichkeiten der Armuts¬bekämpfung durch formale Selbsthilfeorganisationen, Arbeitsschwerpunkt 6, Marburg, 1989, pp. 22.
(9)
Cf. Rahnema, M.: Poverty, In: Sachs, Wolfgang (Ed.): The development dictionary, A guide to knowledge as power, London/New Jersey 1992, pp. 159.
(10)
Cf. Marburg Consult for self-help promotion (Ed.), 1989, p. 22.
(11)
Cf. Bücher, M.: Is economics culture-bound?, Economic growth, social development and socio-cultural conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, In: Dittrich, Sabine/Thumser, Jens-Petersen (Eds.):Social security in Africa, Proceedings of the International Conference held in Berlin November 1993, DSE, Berlin 1994, pp. 53.
(12)
Cf. Rahnema, M., 1992, p. 161.
(13)
Cf. ibid.
(14)
Cf. Hemmer, H.-R./Kötter, H. (Eds.): Armutsorientierte kirchliche Entwicklungsarbeit, Eine sozio-ökonomische Analyse, Misereor-Dialog Nr. 8, Aachen 1990, pp. 14.
(15)
Cf. Rahnema, M., 1992, p. 167.
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Cf. in this respect see works of F.A. von Hayek, e.g. Hayek, F.A.v.: Studies in philosophy, politics and economics, London 1967.
(17)
Cf. Denzau, A.T./North, D.C.: Shared mental models, Ideologies and institutions, In: Kyklos, Vol.47, Fasc.I, 1994, pp. 3.
(18)
Cf. Röpke, J.: Evolution and Innovation, in: Dopfer, K./Raible, K.F. (Eds.): The Evolution of Economic Systems, London 1990, p. 112.
(19)
Cf. ibid.
(20)
Cf. Galtung, J.: Cultural conflict and economic growth, In: Attesländer, Peter (Ed.): Kulturelle Eigenentwicklung, Perspektiven einer neuen Entwicklungspolitik, Frankfurt am Main 1993, pp. 54.
(21)
For a detailed discussion see Röpke, J.: Die Strategie der Innovation, Tübingen 1977.
(22)
Cf. Lal, D.: Poverty and Development, In: Siebert, Horst (Ed.): The ethical foun¬dations of the market economy, International Workshop, Institut für Weltwirtschaft an der Universität Kiel, Tübingen 1994, pp. 148.
(23)
Cf. ibid.
(24)
Cf. e.g. Adelman, I.: A poverty focused approach to development policy, In: Lewis, J.P./Kallab, V. (Eds.): Development strategies reconsidered, New Brunswick/Oxford, 1986, pp. 40.
(25)
For further elaboration cf. ibid., pp. 57.
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Cf. Saidi, K.: Afrikas Agrar- und Ernährungsproblem, Kultur-, nicht Produktionskrise, In: Vereinte Nationen, 32.33., 1985, p. 129.
(27)
Cf. ibid.
(28)
Cf. Münkner, H.-H.: Basic cooperative values to fill a conceptual vacuum with special reference to Africa, Paper prepared for the ICA Co-operative Research Forum Manchester, September 17th and 18th, 1995, Marburg 1995, pp. 4.
(29)
Cf. ibid.
(30)
Cf. Saidi, K., 1985, pp. 131.
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Cf. Rahnema, M., 1992, pp. 171.
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Bibangambah, J.R.: Approaches to the problem of rural poverty in Africa, in: Kiros, F.G.: Challenging rural poverty, Experiences in institution-building and popular participation for the rural development in Eastern Afrika, Trenton, N.J. 1985, p. 54.
(33)
Bibangambah, J.R., 1985, pp. 47.
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Cf. Lal, D., 1994, p. 152.
(35)
For an elaborative discussion of the relationship between poverty removal and entitlement guarantees see Sen, A.: Public action and the qualitiy of live, In: Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Vol.43, 1981, pp. 309.
(36)
Bibangambah, J.R., 1985, p. 47.
(37)
Cf. Cernea, M.M.: Putting people first, Social science knowledge for development interventions, In: Mathur, H.M. (Ed.).: The human dimension of development, Per¬spective from anthropology, New Dehli 1990, pp. 3.
(38)
Cf. Hyden, G.: African social structure and economic development, In: Berg, R./ Whitaker, J.S.: Strategies for African development, Berkeley/Los Angeles/London 1986, pp. 74.
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Cf. Cernea, M.M., 1990, pp. 281.
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Cf. Serageldin, I.: The challenge of a holistic vision, culture, empowerment and the development paradigm, In: Serageldin, I./Taboroff, J. (Eds.): Culture and develop¬ment in Africa, Proceedings of an International Conference held at the World Bank, Washington, D.C., April 2 and 3, 1992, Washington 1994, p. 22.
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Cf. Colletta, N.J.: Tradition for change, In: Mathur, H.M. (Eds.), 1990, pp. 108.