Res Publica

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 65–68 | Cite as

What it Means to be Disadvantaged and What can be Done about it

Jonathan Wolff and Avner de-Shalit, Disadvantage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007, 231 pp
  • Daniel A. BellEmail author

Over two thousand years ago, the Chinese social critic Mencius said that the government should give first consideration to ‘old men without wives, old women without husbands, old people without children, and young children without fathers’ (Mencius: IB.5). Part of the problem is that those people are materially poor. But it’s not the only issue. Mencius also thought that they were disadvantaged in the sense of being deprived of key human relations, especially family relations. Such views are still quite common in contemporary China. Tan Shen, a sociologist from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, interviewed migrant workers in the Beijing area (China’s ‘floating population’, estimated at two hundred million migrants, is composed largely of impoverished farmers migrating to urban areas in seach of better work opportunities and higher earnings). She asked them about ‘poverty’, but they were puzzled by such an abstract concept. Then she asked them how their life is going (‘ni guo de...


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  2. Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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