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Anti-Poverty, Development, and the Limits of Progress

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In this paper I critically engage with Hennie Lötter’s impressive book, Poverty, Ethics and Justice. I discuss his conception of poverty, and offer an interpretation of his claim that poverty is a uniquely human scourge. I exam the various harms of poverty that Lötter discusses. I consider two reasons that he offers for why we have a moral duty to end poverty, and I argue that the reason based on what we can justify to others if we take their human dignity seriously is most compelling. Finally, I argue that Lötter overemphasizes of the moral importance of aid and downplays in the importance of the justice of institutional and structural change. I close by considering the prospects for social equality given our experience of capitalist development as a means for poverty eradication. I consider the moral importance of limits to the achievement of robust equality.

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  1. See also Forst (2012, pp. 19ff.).

  2. See also Scanlon (1998, pp. 160–168).


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I would like to thank Thad Metz for the invitation to write and to present this paper at the University of Johannesburg workshop on Hennie Lötter’s book. I also wish to thank the participants of the conference for discussing these ideas with me. And most especially I’d like to thank Hennie Lötter for the fine book that stimulated these thoughts and for his comments on this paper.

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Correspondence to Darrel Moellendorf.

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Moellendorf, D. Anti-Poverty, Development, and the Limits of Progress. Res Publica 22, 317–325 (2016).

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