Current development discourse on poverty reduction mainly emphasises the respective roles of the state and the market. This book argues, via a series of original fieldwork investigations, for the importance of exploring and understanding the poor's own actions. These actions may seek to change their poverty directly. Or the poor may seek to effect change with respect to the formulation and implementation of public policy. The notion of political space is critical to understanding the possibility and potential for such actions for poverty reduction.
The authors develop a concept of political space comprising institutional channels for accessing policy formulation, the content of political discourse, the degree to which it emphasises poverty as an issue, and the skill and strategies of the poor themselves. They demonstrate that the relationships between the actions of the poor and the organisations and institutions of the political arena are neither simple nor predictable. Instead the studies in this volume detail the the complex realities of political agency of the poor, the strategic use of discourse, the limits of institutional reform, the contested nature of poverty reduction, and the significance of political space for challenging conditions of marginalisation.