The Scandal of Poverty and the Politics of Sociology

Starting from István Kemény’s famous 1970 lecture on poverty delivered at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the essay investigates the relationship between poverty, sociology and power. The censorship on the public discourse on poverty, apparent in the political consequences of Kemény’s lecture, sheds light not only on the oppressive nature of the pre-1990 regime, but also on the increased sensitivity that an etatist political system with a distinctively egalitarian ideology has about the issue of poverty. Not only within the context of political oppression does the sociology of poverty take on political importance: by revealing the mechanisms through which poverty and inequalities are reproduced, sociology is inherently political, since the symbolic efficacy of these mechanisms rests on the concealment of their functioning and consequences. In a society in which the legitimacy of inequalities is based on the denial of sociological facts and regularities, sociologists are—or could be—natural allies to the victims of those inequalities.

Released: Replika 104, 101–109.
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