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This multi-authored book explores the ways that many influential ethical traditions - secular and religious, Western and non-Western - wrestle with the moral dimensions of poverty and the needs of the poor. These traditions include Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, among the religious perspectives; classical liberalism, feminism, liberal-egalitarianism, and Marxism, among the secular; and natural law, which might be claimed by both. The basic questions addressed by each of these traditions are linked to several overarching themes: what poverty is, the particular vulnerabilities of high-risk groups, responsibility for the occurrence of poverty, preferred remedies, how responsibility for its alleviation is distributed, and priorities in the delivery of assistance. This volume features an introduction to the types, scope, and causes of poverty in the modern world and concludes with Michael Walzer's broadly conceived commentary, which provides a direct comparison of the presented views and makes suggestions for further study and policy.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book which prompts us to wonder whether we are compelled to choose between secular and religious approaches to poverty. The book addresses questions about poverty and the poor within specific ethical traditions articulating ethical or normative theories rather than empirical claims. It provides readers with the opportunity to make comparisons between and among several secular and religious traditions, as well as to make comparisons within what are never truly homogeneous and unchanging systems of ethical thought, texts, and behavior. Addressing poverty across, not just within, national boundaries requires a better understanding of the variegated intellectual and religious traditions that have shaped our global civilization. In a modest and tentative way, the book helps to build that understanding and, in so doing, contributes to the alleviation of deprivation and want, wherever it may exist.