| | MR Online Children at work in a cotton mill (England, 1835). Source: Mule Spinning in Action: Capture from Baines 1835, Illustrations from the History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain (H. Fisher, R. Fisher, and P. Jackson), public domain.

Capitalism and the Production of Poverty

The perpetual production of ever-changing forms of poverty is an inevitable part of the creative destruction that characterizes capitalism. The form of the poverty changes, because capitalism is dynamic and constantly changing, but poverty remains. The production of poverty is not only an inevitable but also a necessary part of capitalism. This has been the case in Britain, the world’s first capitalist industrial power, for the past eight hundred years.

Poverty is in large part about peoples’ relationship to the means of production—they have been pushed off the land, they do not have a job, or the job they have is poorly paid, part-time, or irregular. This has been the case for centuries; it is the case today.

Two British authors describe the constant presence of poverty in working class life: “The single most unifying factor in working class history has been poverty: the threat of poverty, the fear of poverty, the certainty of poverty.”1 Precarious work—and indeed, the precarity of life itself—has been a constant. As Palmer put it, “work has never been anything but a precarious foundation of life lived on the razor’s edge of dispossession.”2

By the end of the seventeenth century, it is estimated that some 40 percent of Britain’s population had been forced off the land in previous centuries by the enclosure movement, a necessary precursor to the emergence of capitalism. Most were made poor as a result—the detritus of the long death of feudal society. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries these “masterless men” tramped the roads, where they “existed in alarming numbers…and too often were unemployable rejects of a society in economic transformation,” equivalent to “the unemployed of the Great Depression of the 1930s, or the jobless millions of today’s inner cities.”3

Fierce labor legislation was enacted throughout the sixteenth century to push vagabonds—those who were able-bodied but not working, and therefore poor— into employment. For example, a vagabond could be “tied to the end of a cart naked and beaten with whips…till his body be bloody,” and his ears could be cut off.4 Vagrants could be branded with a hot iron with the mark of “V.” In 1590, vagrants in Middlesex, for example, “were being whipped and branded…at the rate of one a day.”5 The point of such punishment was to force the poor into the paid labor force.

The poor often rebelled. Enclosure riots increased dramatically in the late sixteenth century. When the Duke of Norfolk asked to speak to the leader of a rebellious crowd, their answer reflected the anger of the times: “Since you ask who is our captain, forsooth his name is Poverty, for he and his cousin Necessity, have brought us to this doing.”6 By the end of the century, vagrancy was so widespread that it resulted in the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601.

The 1601 Poor Law was in effect a threadbare social assistance system that provided to the “deserving” poor—the sick, the aged, those with disabilities, for example—just enough to prevent them from dying in the streets or rebelling. It excluded those deemed able to work (the “undeserving” poor) who could be forced into the paid labour force or punished for noncompliance. The idea that relief should be directed at the “deserving” poor and consist of a bare minimum would persist over the following four centuries to today, as would the belief in punishing the “undeserving” poor.

Many who were poor during the two centuries following the Elizabethan Poor Law made their way to the cities, where they were plunged into more poverty and precarity. Consider the case of children. London in the eighteenth century “teemed with abandoned children. Over a thousand a year were being left on the rubbish heaps, in the streets, alleys and other public thoroughfares of the city.”7 The most common “solution” was to set them to work. For example, in 1770 it was recommended that “poor children be sent at the age of four to workhouses.… There is considerable use in their being, somehow or other, constantly employed at least 12 hours a day,” so that they might be “habituated to constant labour.”8

In those workhouses, massive numbers died. A 1767 Committee of the House of Commons reported that from 1741 to 1748, of the 1,429 children either born in a London workhouse or brought there at less than one year of age, only nineteen survived, slightly better than 1 percent.9 Based on 1746–50 data, historians Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker conclude that “St. Margaret’s workhouse was quite simply a place of death.”10  At St. Luke’s workhouse in London between 1757 and 1763, all fifty-three children under the age of 5 died—100 percent.11 Death rates of children in the 50 percent range were common in British workhouses in the years leading up to the Industrial Revolution.

Conditions were deliberately made cruel in order to force people to work in the mines and mills of the day. As explained a member of the Poor Law Commission, “I wish to see the Poor House looked to with dread by our labouring class…for without this, where is the needful stimulus to industry?”12

The New Poor Law of 1834 was similarly designed to force people to work. Work in the “dark satanic mills” was dangerous; hours were long and difficult; the pay was paltry. Nobody wanted such jobs. Force was necessary.

In the coal mines, children under the age of 10 could be found on all fours in low-ceilinged mine shafts, ropes around their waists and chains between their legs, pulling loaded coal carts like horses. Parents took children starting at 8 or 9 years of age into the pits, in most cases because their families needed the extra earnings. Women took children as young as 6 years old into the pits and sometimes used drugs, opium for example, to keep the little ones quiet. The result was that “a great number of infants perish from an overdose, or, as more commonly happens, painfully and insidiously. Those who escape with life become pale and sickly children…with a ruined constitution.”13

Many of the children found “infesting” the streets of London were rounded up, loaded into carts and forcibly hauled off to the Lancashire cotton mills. As described by a contemporary, “It is a very common practice in the great populace parishes in London to bind children in large numbers to the proprietors of cotton-mills in Lancashire and Yorkshire, at a distance of 200 miles. The children, who are sent off by wagon loads at a time, are as much lost forever to their parents as if they were shipped off to the West Indies.”14

In the mills, children often worked twelve or more hours in high temperatures, were beaten to induce work, injured by machinery, and even died from malnutrition. Joseph Habergram, disabled from work in the mills, told an 1833 parliamentary committee, “I had 14 1/2 hours actual labour, when seven years of age…strapping was the means by which children kept at work.”15 The son of factory owner and reformer David Owen wrote, “In some large factories, from one-fourth to one-fifth of the children were either cripples or otherwise deformed, or permanently injured by excessive toil, sometimes by brutal abuse.”16

This is capitalism. Its enormous profits were produced on the backs of workers and children. It made Britain the world’s leading industrial and imperial power—and it produced horrendous forms of poverty as a necessary part of the process. This is what Marx meant when he said, “A matter of a million paupers in the British workhouse is as inseparable from British prosperity as the existence of 18 to 20 millions in gold in the Bank of England.”17 The production of poverty is inseparable from the creation of wealth.

Similarly, profits from slavery fuelled the Industrial Revolution. Between 1630 and 1807, British slave merchants bought and sold an estimated 2,500,000 Africans. The trade in enslaved people was enormously profitable. Those profits were the result of a managerial strategy on the cotton plantations of the U.S. Deep South, described by Edward Baptist as “torture,” management by the whip. “The whip made cotton,” and slave-produced cotton made the Industrial Revolution.18

The importance of slavery and cotton to the Industrial Revolution is reflected in the case of Liverpool. Liverpool merchants controlled as much as 85 percent of the British slave trade. By the late 1830s, almost 90 percent of all British cotton imports entered through Liverpool. The city’s entire power structure was populated by those directly involved in the cotton-based slave trade. In 1787, thirty-seven of the city’s forty-one councillors “were slave-ship owners or major investors in or suppliers to the trade. All of the 20 mayors between 1787 and 1807 financed or owned slave-ships.”19 Wealth that flowed from the slave trade created Liverpool’s major banks, which in turn made vast profits by advancing the credit needed to build the cotton plantations in the Deep South. Collateral was typically the slaves themselves. Those supporting what has been called the “West Indian Interest” in slavery included “hundreds of MPs, peers, civil servants, businessmen, financiers, landowners, clergymen, intellectuals, journalists, publishers, soldiers, sailors, and judges, and all of them went to extreme lengths to preserve and protect colonial slavery.”20 Industrial capitalism would not have been born in Britain were it not for the blood of cotton and slavery.

The cotton produced in the U.S. by enslaved Africans was then processed by wage slaves—often children and, by the 1830s, increasingly women—in the Lancashire mills. The finished product, cotton clothing, was exported, primarily to British colonies such as India, undermining the production of clothing there. For centuries, India had been the leading producer of the world’s finest cotton. What Sven Beckert describes as “war capitalism”—the use of force and violence to open markets and secure labour and resources—virtually destroyed the Indian cotton industry. “India was systematically deindustrialized and became in turn a market for the Lancashire cottons: in 1820 the subcontinent took only 11 million yards; but by 1840 it already took 145 million yards.”21 Slaves picked cotton under brutal conditions in the Deep South; women and children processed it in Lancashire mills under brutal conditions; and the sale of the resulting products laid waste to what had been a thriving clothing industry in India. Poverty barely describes the condition of those involved in this global “market.”

Poverty—brutally inhumane poverty—was produced at every point in what was a global capitalist process. Slavery, colonialism, and forced labour were necessary elements of capitalism’s emergence. Capitalism generated, at the same time and as part of the same process, massive profits and horrific poverty and grief. As Marx wrote, capitalism came into the world “dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”22

Nor is poverty a thing of capitalism’s past. Leap forward a century and a half, through the vast poverty of the Great Depression of the 1930s—when millions of British workers suffered the ravages of mass unemployment and mass poverty, and the cruel indignities of the bitterly hated Household Means Test and the “genuinely seeking work” test—to the Thatcher era of the 1980s and beyond. Britain’s capitalist economy was in trouble in the late 1970s, in response to which the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher—inspired by the ideas of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman—were elected in 1979.

Thatcher’s values were essentially Victorian. She believed the UK’s economic problems were caused by the welfare state. She opposed all forms of welfare and believed the poor should be forced to work. Before becoming prime minister, she was one of six Conservative members of Parliament who voted in favour of restoring flogging for the poor, as done four centuries earlier to force vagabonds to work. In her third term, she introduced a full-fledged workfare system. Workfare would force people into the lower reaches of the labor market, just as the workhouses and the 1834 Poor Law had been designed to do a century and a half earlier.

Thatcher’s governments deliberately created poverty. Their economic strategy included deep cuts to supports for the poor, a weakening of union power via “ferocious anti-trade union legislation unparalleled in Europe,” large cuts in taxation for high income earners, and the unleashing of market forces, together with an attempt to shift British culture to a more individualist and pro-enterprise orientation.23 Britain’s manufacturing sector was crushed and unemployment skyrocketed, reaching levels even higher and of longer duration than in the 1930s. By 1996, in Liverpool’s Merseyside, 37 percent of working age men were not employed, one in five households in Britain were without a working adult, and the number of adults living in households without work had doubled between 1979 and 1993–94.24 For Norman Lamont, chancellor of the exchequer, this was a “price worth paying” to restore the health of capitalism in Britain.25 Poverty was deliberately created to restore the conditions for capital accumulation, for profitability.

The result was an explosion of poverty. In 1999, after two decades of Thatcher-led and Thatcher-inspired Conservative governments, “there were more people living in or on the margins of poverty than at any time in British history. According to the most rigorous survey of poverty and social exclusion ever undertaken, by the end of 1999 approximately 14 million people in Britain, or 25 percent of the population, were objectively living in poverty.”26

Beyond the cold numbers, there was “disturbing evidence of desperate poverty on a scale not witnessed in Britain since the 1930s…diseases associated with poverty and malnutrition, such as rickets and tuberculosis, which most health experts had hoped were banished forever, had returned.”27 Conservative Member of Parliament Ian Gilmour was moved to say that “The Thatcherite treatment of the poor was unforgiveable.”28

The New Labour party took office in 1997. Poverty and inequality had reached levels unprecedented in modern times. Yet little changed in their approach. Danny Dorling described New Labour as “Thatcherism continued.” Colin Crouch called New Labour “Thatcher’s well-behaved step-children, her direct progeny.” Thomas Piketty wrote that New Labour “largely validated and perpetrated the fiscal reforms of the Thatcher era.”29 When Thatcher was asked what her greatest achievement was, she replied, “Tony Blair and New Labour. We forced our opponents to change their minds.”30

It may be that their minds were not much changed. Blair did not betray his roots, “as he had no roots to betray,” he “didn’t have a socialist bone in his body.”31 In a 1995 speech to the British Chamber of Commerce, Blair said, “old Labour thought the role of government was to interfere with the market. New Labour believes the role of government is to make the market more dynamic, to provide people and business with the means to success.”32 It followed logically that New Labour would abandon its long-held commitment to equality of outcomes, in the Thatcherite belief that such efforts would be a constraint on the economy.

Many key New Labour figures, including Blair, despised old Labour. Roy Hattersley, typically seen as part of the old Labour Right, said that New Labour abandoned “the disadvantaged,” adding that socialism “requires the bedrock principle to be the redistribution of power and wealth.”33 Blair and New Labour were adamantly opposed to the redistribution of power and wealth.

New Labour made some gains in reducing the poverty of children and pensioners—the so-called deserving poor. However, these gains were not long lasting, and inequality, which had risen dramatically under Thatcher, soared to new and obscene levels. As described by Peter Mandelson, an intellectual founder of New Labour, “We are intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich, as long as they pay their taxes.”34 Yet New Labour cut taxes for upper income earners and drove corporate taxation to levels lower than ever in British history and the lowest in major industrial countries.  The Sunday Times called the New Labour years a “golden age for the very rich.”35

New Labour’s approach had been to support people in moving out of poverty, via various “anti-poverty” programs. However, Hattersley was surely correct that “a Labour government should not be talking about escape routes from poverty and deprivation.” The task, rather, ought to be “to change society in such a way that there is no poverty and deprivation from which to escape.”36 New Labour had no such commitment.

Housing for the poor—for centuries a dismal and often horrific aspect of poverty in Britain—worsened under New Labour, their record on social housing being worse than Thatcher’s.  Council estates, once the proud homes of the British working class, were increasingly seen as the homes of the undeserving poor and were allowed to deteriorate even further than they had under Thatcher. New Labour was “ideologically opposed to building council housing” and cut in half—”to the extraordinarily low figure of 0.3 percent”—the proportion of GDP spent on council housing.37

Young adults in marginal housing estates—“sink estates”—were relegated to poorly paid, no-benefits/no future jobs at the bottom of the labor market. These are the jobs that capitalists now create. New Labour’s response was to build on Thatcher’s workfare strategy, to the point that Britain became the world’s leading “workfare state,” the logic being “workfare is not about creating jobs for people that don’t have them; it is about creating workers for jobs that nobody wants,”38 which is precisely what the workhouses and the 1834 New Poor Law were designed to do. In the face of these dead ends, young people rioted in 2001. As the Guardian wrote in May of that year, the riots “were the result of tensions that have been brewing for years and whose sources are not mysterious. The first tension was based in poverty. As in every British riot, the struggle erupted in a place of desperate economic hardship”—yet the blame was placed on the rioters, “and the community pathologies that have generated them.”39

In 2011, the year after New Labour left office, civil unrest erupted again, generating a rash of hateful blaming of the poor. The Telegraph ran an article titled “London Riots: The Underclass Lashes Out.” Media coverage used such language as “scum, thugs, feral rats.… The term scum was the favourite pejorative: ‘the scum class,’ ‘verminous waste.’” The Justice Minister called rioters “our feral underclass.” Prime Minister David Cameron attributed the riots to a “moral collapse,” insisting “these riots were not about poverty” but rather “about behaviour.” Boris Johnson, then London’s mayor, considered it “revolting” to advance explanations related to poverty.40

A more informed explanation can be located in the words of a 22-year-old man involved in the 2011 riots: “All I can tell you is that me, myself and the group I was in, none of us have got jobs, yeah? I been out of work now coming up two years…and it’s just like a depression, man, that you sink into.… I felt like I needed to be there to just say ‘look, this is what’s gonna happen if there’s no jobs offered to us out there.’”41

Capitalism produces poverty, but the poor have always shouldered the blame. Even more than blamed, they have been feared, reviled, and hated. During the early years of the centuries-long enclosure movement, those tramping the roads were called “lawless beasts” committing “heinous deeds, detestable sins”; they were “the very filth and vermin of the commonwealth.”42 Centuries later, in the late nineteenth century, Charles Booth, a relatively sympathetic recorder of poverty in London, said about the poor, “their very life is the life of savages.… They degrade whatever they touch.43 About the Irish poor, who had moved into England in large numbers especially in the mid-nineteenth century, a Liverpool physician wrote in 1845: “The Irish seem to be contented amidst the dirt and filth…they merely seem to care for that which will support animal existence.”44 A century later, in the late 1940s and ’50s, mothers in what were then called “problem families” were identified as the cause of poverty. They were “feckless mothers,” raising children who were “dull and feeble-minded.”45 In the ’60s, a hostile media blamed poverty on “Britain’s army of dole queue swindlers,” triggering an outburst of “Scroungerphobia” that included headlines like “Get the Scroungers!”46

It continues. The May 24, 2023 edition of the British Guardian reported that the Right wing of the Conservative Party was blaming Britain’s economic problems on “slackers” and “idlers.” Capitalism keeps producing poverty; the poor keep on being blamed for their poverty. This is “poverty propaganda.”47 It is functional to capitalism.

Throughout the past eight hundred years, there has almost never been a serious attempt to dramatically reduce the poverty that capitalism produces. There is one important exception. The 1945–51 Labour governments were outstanding in meeting the needs of the poor, despite never, as far as I can tell, using the term “anti-poverty programs.” Their approach was universal programs, that is, programs that benefitted the entire working-class population—the National Health Service; massive, good quality housing for the working class; a National Insurance Act that paid unemployment and sickness benefits to all working people; and a dramatic reduction in the numbers of the unemployed.

The ideological basis of these policies was a commitment to move away from a targeted, residual and charity-based approach to an egalitarian, inclusive, and universal approach. All citizens were to have access to services of a roughly equal standard, and by this means, a floor was to be established for all. This insistence upon universality—opposed tenaciously by Conservatives—can legitimately be seen as an attack on class privilege.

So too can changes to taxation. The Labour governments placed a surtax on incomes over £10,000 and death duties of 75 percent on estates worth more than £21,500. By 1951, the marginal tax rate on high incomes was over 90 percent.48

The 1945–51 Labour governments faced immense financial pressure—John Maynard Keynes called the 1947 financial crisis following the termination of Lend-Lease “a financial Dunkirk.”49 They faced massive opposition from the private sector and the British establishment. A junior Labour minister described rising to speak in the House of Commons and facing “the cold, implacable eyes of that row of well-tailored tycoons, who hated the Labour government with a passion and fear which made them dedicated men in their determination to get it out of office.”50

In the face of these huge financial and political pressures, Labour displayed enormous courage and a rock-solid commitment to meeting the needs of working people. The result was that poverty plummeted. As Kenneth Morgan wrote,  “All the indices—for instance, the statistics of medical officers of health, or of school medical or dental officers—suggest that the standard of health and of robust physique steadily improved during the entire 1945–51 period, from infants, whose survival rates continued to improve, to old people, whose expectation of a long and happy retirement steadily lengthened.”51 Quantitative studies of the incidence of poverty were consistent with these other indicators: poverty declined dramatically.52 It was not eliminated, but never before had it been so dramatically cut—a fact confirmed by a later, revised analysis of B. Seebohm Rowntree’s and G. R. Lavers’s 1951 study.53

There was much still to be done. The emergent welfare state ought to have been “merely the first installment of a much more far-reaching program of radical reform.”54 That did not happen. The huge steps taken by the postwar Labour governments were not built upon by later Labour governments in ways that were both necessary and possible. Britain moved from being a social policy leader in the immediate postwar years to a social policy laggard—gradually at first, as the result in part of revisionist Labour Party policies, then more deliberately and dramatically with the elections starting in 1979 of Thatcher’s Conservative governments, and, finally, with the efforts of New Labour. “The welfare state had been Labour’s greatest achievement. It had been damaged and weakened under Mrs. Thatcher. But its wholesale destruction was to be New Labour’s historic mission.”55

Poverty continues to be a massive problem in Britain in the third decade of the twenty-first century. In 2018, Philip Alston, the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, following an investigation of poverty in Britain, accused the government of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population.”56 In November 2023, his successor, the UN’s current rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Oliver De Schutter, stated “things have got worse.”57 Housing conditions for many are appalling. Homelessness grows relentlessly. Precarious labor abounds. Food banks are ubiquitous. Fuel poverty is widespread. The poor suffer depleted health and shortened lives. Drug addiction is rampant and destructive, especially for the poor. Punishment and imprisonment of the poor is a staple of today’s response to poverty, as it was under and prior to the Poor Laws. Hopelessness and despair weigh heavily on those who are poor. Vast human suffering is the result of this age-old scourge, today as ever. Still, the poor continue to be blamed, even reviled and hated, for their poverty—a poverty caused not by their moral and behavioral failings, but by the fundamental logic of capitalism.

Capitalism’s logic produces poverty. It does so because the surplus generated in the process of capital accumulation is invested where capitalists believe it will generate the greatest future profit. It is not invested in meeting peoples’ needs if doing so is not expected to produce profits. It is, for example, not invested in adequate and affordable housing for those who are living in poverty despite the great need, because adequate and affordable housing for the poor is not profitable. This is the case even though it is known that inadequate and unaffordable housing contributes to the further production and reproduction of poverty. The entire point of the capitalist system is the maximization of profit, not the meeting of human needs and certainly not the elimination of poverty.

If there is a solution in today’s world, the radical reformism of the 1945–51 Labour governments provides its broad outlines. The standard Left criticisms of those governments are mistaken. What those governments did was not simply “a modest program” largely indistinguishable from what was implemented in most advanced capitalist societies to varying extents. Nor can it be written off, as some Marxist scholars have done, as simply a means of stabilizing capitalism and taming the working class. Thus, John Saville argues that the achievements of those governments “are a necessary and essential part of the structure of advanced capitalist societies,” because they remove “the harshness and insecurity which is a built-in characteristic of industrial life.”58 Such analyses remove the class struggle that was the basis of Labour’s considerable achievements, and ignore the massive financial and political challenges that had to be overcome in order to do so. They ignore the class-based efforts of workers and their organizations over many decades to achieve these gains.

The more accurate approach is to acknowledge that Labour governments went an enormous distance in a remarkably short time to dramatically reduce poverty. They diverted fiscal resources away from individual consumption via rationing and invested in the creation of collective services that pulled millions out of poverty. As Dorothy Thompson described it, these collective services provided benefits “purely on the basis of need and not of cash payment.… This conception is a profoundly anti-capitalist one. It had to be fought for at every stage.” Therefore, “these are, objectively, victories for working class values within capitalist society.”59

Although the 1945–51 Labour governments were not revolutionary, significant improvements did occur in the lives of many of Britain’s poor, “as shown by oral history studies of the impact of the NHS. We do well to respect such testimony.”60 Tony Benn argued that given the circumstances of the time, the 1945–51 Labour governments achieved a “social revolution,” adding, “these things didn’t happen inexorably, they happened because a form of socialist, democratic and activist leadership was given at a critical moment.”61 These changes laid the foundation for what could have been a lasting end to poverty, had their initial steps been built upon, and had their vision and political courage been carried on by their successors—but that did not happen. It is the Labour successors to the 1945–51 governments who must bear the responsibility for the failure to build upon the foundation laid by those governments.

Poverty will never be solved by capitalism, because capitalism produces poverty. Supporters of capitalism will continue to argue that all efforts must be directed to restoring economic growth, because only with more growth can the needs of the poor be met. Such claims are not to be believed. Unrestricted capitalism will constantly demand sacrifices for growth, with the goal of defeating poverty endlessly deferred.

Nor can poverty be solved by narrowly targeted “anti-poverty” programs. They have the effect of pulling some people out of poverty, while leaving intact the system, the logic of which relentlessly produces poverty. Further, because they are targeted at the poor, and the poor have always been blamed for their poverty and even hated as a result, such programs lack broad public support and are minimalist as a result.

To dramatically reduce poverty, radical reforms are necessary. These include a massive redistribution of income and wealth; putting to work large numbers of people to do the many things that need to be done and paying them a living wage; adopting universal programs that support all working people (and not just the poor); and paying for these measures with a genuinely progressive tax system that particularly taxes those accumulating ethically insupportable and economically destructive amounts of income and wealth.

Doing all of this would require a clear ideological commitment to socialist or strong social democratic principles and the courage to adopt and defend such measures in the face of the fierce opposition they would surely generate. Failure to take such steps will mean that capitalism will continue, without end, its relentless production of poverty.


1. Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook, A World Still to Win: The Reconstruction of the Post-War Working Class (London: Faber and Faber, 1985), 39.

2. Bryan Palmer, “Reconsideration of Class: Precariousness as Proletarianization,” in Socialist Register 2014: Registering Class, eds. Leo Panitch, Greg Albo, and Vivek Chibber, (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1985), 44.

3. A. L. Beier, Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England 1560–1640 (London: Methuen, 1985).

4. William P. Quigley, “Five Hundred Years of English Poor Laws, 1349–1834: Regulating the Working and Nonworking Poor,” Akron Law Review 30, no. 1 (1997): 12.

5. Christopher Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England (New York: Schocken Books, 1964), 287.

6. Catherina Lis and Hugo Soly, Poverty and Capitalism in Pre-Industrial Europe (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1979), 85.

7. Tanya Evans, “Unfortunate Objects”: Lone Mothers in Eighteenth Century London (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 129.

8. Quoted in E. P. Thompson, “Time, Work Discipline and Industrial Capitalism,” in Essays in Social History, eds. M. W. Flinn and T. C. Smout, (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 59.

9. Dorothy Marshall, The English Poor in the Eighteenth Century (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969), 145.

10. Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker, London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690­1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 252­–53.

11. Ivy Pinchbeck and Margaret Hewitt, Children in English Society, Volume I: From Tudor Times to the Eighteenth Century (London/Toronto: Routledge and Kegan Paul and the University of Toronto Press, 1969), 181.

12. Derek Fraser, Evolution of the British Welfare State: A History of Social Policy Since the Industrial Revolution, 2nd edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1984), 41.

13. Ivy Pinchbeck and Margaret Hewitt, Children in English Society, Volume II: From Tudor Times to the Eighteenth Century (London/Toronto: Routledge and Kegan Paul and the University of Toronto Press, 1973), 406.

14. Roy Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (London: Penguin, 1991), 58.

15. Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Penguin, 2015), 177.

16. Quoted in J. T. Ward, The Factory Movement:183-1855 (London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd, 1962), 22.

17. Quoted in Palmer, “Reconsideration of Class,” 54.

18. Edward Baptist, “Towards a Political Economy of Slave Labour: Hands, Whipping Machines and Modern Power,” Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development in eds. Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 52.

19. Norma Myers, Reconstructing the Black Past: Black in Britain 1780–1830 (London: Frank Cass and Co., 1996), viii.

20. Michael Taylor, The Interest: How the British Establishment Resisted the Abolition of Slavery (London: Bodley Head, 2020), 311.

21. Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: 1789–1848 (New York: New American Library, 1962), 53.

22. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin Books, 1976), 926.

23. Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century (London: Fontana Press, 1997), 506.

24. Paul Convery, “Unemployment,” in Britain Divided: The Growth of Social Exclusion in the 1980s and 1990s, eds. Alan Walker and Carol Walker, (London: CPAG Ltd., 1997), 187, emphasis in original; and Helga Pile and Catherine O’Donnell, “Earnings, Taxation and Wealth,” in Britain Divided, 32.

25. Quoted in Convery, “Unemployment.”

26. Christina Pantanzis, David Gordon and Ruth Levitas, Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain: The Millenium Survey (Bristol: Policy Press, 2006), 1.

27. Alan Walker, “Introduction,” in Britain Divided, 9.

28. Quoted in Pete Dorey, British Conservatism: The Politics and Philosophy of Inequality (London: I. B. Taurus, 1997), 101.

29. Danny Dorling, “Mapping the Thatcherite Legacy: the Human Geography of Inequality in Britain since the 1970s,” in Stephen Farrell and Colin Hay (eds.), The Legacy of Thatcherism: Assessing and Exploring Thatcherite Social and Economic Policies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 260; Colin Crouch, “The Parabola of Working Class Politics,” in The New Social Democracy, eds. Andrew Gamble and Tony Wright, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 70; and Thomas Piketty, Capital and Ideology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), 845.

30. Quoted in Leo Panitch, “Foreword: Reading the State in Capitalist Society,” in Ralph Miliband, The State in Capitalist Society (Pontypool: Merlin Press, 2009), xiv.

31. Quoted in Richard Heffernan, New Labour and Thatcherism: Political Change in Britain (London: Macmillan, 2000), 22.

32. Tony Blair, A Journey: My Political Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 45.

33. Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, The End of Parliamentary Socialism: From New Left to New Labour (London: Verso, 1997), 232.

34. Quoted in Andrew Rawnsley, The End of the Party (London: Penguin, 2010), 6.

35. Pat Thane, “Poverty in the Divided Kingdom,” History and Policy (September 2018): 438, historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/rss_2.0.

36. Quoted in Stephen Meredith, “Mr. Crosland’s Nightmare? New Labour and Inequality in Historical Perspective,” British Journal of Politics and International Relations 8 (2006): 244.

37. Owen Jones, Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class (London: Verso, 2012), 230; Rodney Lowe, The Welfare State in Britain Since 1945, 3rd edition (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 429.

38. Jamie Peck, Workfare States (New York and London: The Guilford Press, 2001), 6.

39. Claire Alexander, “Imagining the Asian Gang: Ethnicity, Masculinity and Youth after ‘the Riots,’” Critical Social Policy 24, no. 4 (2004): 528.

40. Imogen Tyler, “The Riots of the Underclass? Stigmatization, Mediation and the Government of Poverty and Disadvantage in Neoliberal Britain,” Sociological Research Online 18, no. 4 (2013): 3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 6.1.

41. Paul Lewis and Tim Newburn, Reading the Riots: Investigating England’s Summer of Disorder (London: The Guardian and London School of Economics, 2011), 25.

42. Quoted in Paul Slack, Poverty and Policy in Tudor and Stuart England (New York: Longman, 1988), 23, 25.

43. Albert Fried and Richard Elman, Charles Booth’s London (New York: Pantheon Books, 1968), 11.

44. Ian Law, A History of Race and Racism in Liverpool, 1660–1950 (Liverpool: Merseyside Community Relations Council, 1981), 22.

45. Pat Starkey, “The Feckless Mother: Women, Poverty and Social Workers in War-time and Post-War England,” Women’s History Review 9, no. 3 (2000): 542; Pat Starkey, “The Medical Officer of Health, the Social Worker, and the Problem Family, 1943–1968: The Case of Family Service Units,” Society for the Social History of Medicine 11, (1998): 430–31.

46. Molly Meacher, Scrounging on the Welfare: The Scandal of the 4 Week Rule (London: Arrow Books, 1974), 40; Alan Deacon, In Search of the Scrounger: The Administration of Unemployment Insurance in Britain 1920–1931, Occasional Papers on Social Administration no. 60 (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1976); Daniel McArthur and Aaron Reeves, “The Rhetoric of Recessions: How British Newspapers Talk About the Poor When Unemployment Rises, 1896–2000,” Sociology 53, no. 6 (2019): 1007.

47. Tracy Shildrick, “Lessons from Grenfell: Poverty Propaganda, Stigma and Class Power,” Sociological Review Monographs 66, no. 4 (2018).

48. Thane, “Poverty in the Divided Kingdom,” 191–92.

49. Henry Pelling, The Labour Governments, 1945–51 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984), 54.

50. David Kynaston, Austerity Britain 1945–51 (New York: Walker and Company, 2008), 172.

51. Kenneth Morgan, Labour in Power, 1945–51 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984), 370.

52. Seebohm Rowntree and G. R. Lavers, Poverty and the Welfare State (London: Longman’s, Green and Co, 1951).

53. Timothy J. Hatton and Roy E. Bailey, “Seebohm Rowntree and the Postwar Poverty Puzzle,” Economic History Review LIII, no. 3 (2000).

54. Jose Harris, William Beveridge: A Biography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), 434.

55. Stuart Hall, “New Labour’s Double Shuffle,” Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 27, no. 4 (2005): 321.

56. Philip Alston, Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (Geneva: United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, 2018).

57. Robert Booth, “UK ‘in violation of international law’ over poverty levels, says UN envoy,” Guardian, November 5, 2023.

58. John Saville, “Labourism and the Labour Government,” in Paving the Third Way: The Critique of Parliamentary Government, ed. David Coates, (London: Merlin Press, 2003), 78.

59. Quoted in Palmer, “Reconsiderations on Class,” 202.

60. Robert Pearce, Attlee’s Labour Governments 1945–51 (London: Routledge, 1994), 76.

61. Quoted in Eric Hobsbawm, The Forward March of Labour Halted? (London: Verso, 1981), 79–80.