The empty rhetoric of poverty reduction at the base of the pyramid

S. Arora, H.A. Romijn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

135 Citations (Scopus)
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This article criticizes recent Bottom (or, Base) of the Pyramid (BoP) approaches for ‘cancelling out politics’ by obscuring unequal power relations at different societal levels and painting an optimistic picture of win-win outcomes that will make (some of) the world’s biggest corporations richer while simultaneously adding a few crucial pennies to the pockets of the poor. The article is thus positioned within a growing stream of literature critical of BoP ideas, but it goes further than existing critiques by arguing that the current BoP discourse serves an important ideological function for global capital, specifically producing a discursive depoliticization of its corporate interventions in the lives of the world’s poor. We argue that the poverty-reduction outcome of a BoP venture is contingent on its practice on the ground, which will inevitably be shaped by local and global power relations. In particular, we point to three cultural-political issues overlooked by the BoP discourse, which are vital in understanding the practice of business ventures at the BoP: adverse power relationships within poor communities; social-epistemological hierarchies between the poor and outsiders who administer poverty-reduction interventions; and local vulnerabilities induced by global currents in products, services, information and ideologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-505
Number of pages25
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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