“The End of Poverty”: A critical Analysis of Poverty as Social Problem Documentary

Summary of the Documentary

Despite the mass wealth that exists in the world today there are still people wallowing in abject poverty. People are often labeled poor when they live under a dollar per day. Modern cities today such as Sao Paulo, which have plenty of resources, have poor people living at the outskirts of the city in informal settlements. However, poverty in the south is extreme than in the north. This is because other than the resources that are owned by the few elites. Poor people in the south also have to deal with unfair terms of trade, debt and monopoly over resources. Poor people in the south are subjected to high taxes because of the high debts they owe to the developed countries. In retrospect, poverty began when Europeans started colonizing other countries exploiting their natural resources and siphoning them back to their own motherland. However, this process of impoverishing others had also started in Europe when communal land was taken away from the poor peasants by the upper class, taking their only source of livelihood. The system of capitalism and colonization are to be blamed for the existence of poverty. Many generations today have had to endure poverty because of their past generations, which were succumbed to poverty by their colonial masters, who forced them to work for them in their own land for free (The end of poverty).

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In essence, capitalism and colonialism are inextricably connected particularly in regard to the main causes of poverty. The formation of the new international economic order after World War II, which eventually brought in programs such as the structural adjustment program, benefitted the north more than the south (Hazlitt para 1). Poverty did not occur as an accident but simply because of the creation of a capitalistic system that failed to meet the needs of each individual to prosper.

Poverty a Social Problem

This documentary seeks to address the main causes of poverty and what can be done in order to reduce poverty. The documentary also looks into capitalism as a failed system in terms of achieving sustainable development; this is despite the introduction of free trade, which has brought in so many conditions, that the poor countries have to adhere to in order to survive. According to Winniefridah, sustainable development in the world today cannot be isolated from poverty and dependency (324).Therefore, this paper looks at how poverty has emerged to be a social problem rather than an individual’s problem. Poverty subsequently leads to the crime and even ends up affecting the wealthy people in the society. Poverty is hence not an issue that should not be left for people in the developing countries to deal with it alone. Poverty today can be understood by looking into how countries were impoverished while under colonization. Despite the elimination of poverty in most parts of Europe, the United States and other developed countries, many people in Latin America and sub Saharan Africa linger in poverty (Hazlitt para 1). This documentary gives perspectives on capitalism expansion to new lands. In addition, the documentary explains how colonization literally made many people slaves and how it has been able to imprison people in the developing countries in a cycle of poverty. Aspects such as the nature of capitalism, the unfair policies made and the state of dependency that developing countries have to live with in order for the north to benefit. All these features make poverty a social problem.

Poverty a Social Problem

Poverty as a social problem deserves attention given that it has proven to be one of the key sources of evil, often portrayed in form of exploitation. On the other hand, poverty has also made people vulnerable to diseases because of malnutrition and constant exploitation by the rich. Such trends have often ended tragically, as many poor people often die due to the selfish interests of the elites in the globe. The quest for a better life for people living in industrialized nations has often led the sacrifice of the essential needs of those living in developing states. Many economic experts state that in order for the developed countries to prosper, developing countries have to be a source of cheap resources and labor. Poverty can never be eradicated if the poor continue financing the luxurious lifestyle of the north through the consumption of manufactured goods that are highly taxed (capitalism under. para 3). Poverty does not only affect the poor but also the rich. Thus, it can only be eradicated by the collective efforts of everybody. Sustainable development cannot be achieved if the poor are always marginalized when it come to the decision –making process and implementation of policies. If the living conditions of the poor continue to get worse there is no guarantee of a better future for the wealthy in developed countries. This is because the wealthy have to depend on the cheap labor from the south, and there is no guarantee that cheap labor will always be there if they are continuously exploited. Poverty is an obstacle of sustainable development and its eradication will have to begin by changing the system so that the needs of poor people can be met at all costs. This documentary is intended for wealthy states and their transnational companies which have failed to comprehend that the huge profits that they make globally is all at the expense the poor who are actually the largest consumers of their manufactured goods.


The documentary has been able to give a good historical perspective of how capitalism began that is since the industrial revolution. The events that also took place after World War II such as the formation of a new economic order and its impact on the developing countries is well illustrated. There is a strong connection between colonialism and capitalism, which all contributed to the impoverishment of countries in the south. The documentary does not also dwell too much on impoverishment of the colonized world but also shows how people in European countries were left in poverty after being driven out of the common lands. Capitalism did not just start in the colonized countries but also in the Europe then gradually moved across borders as Europeans started looking for natural resources in new lands. However, the documentary embellishes that  people living under a dollar per day as poor (The end of poverty). This statement is quite biased because it does not represent all developing countries. The poverty in some developing countries may actually be much higher (Deaton para 9). The documentary has hence been able to give a good perspective of the main causes of poverty but failed to get a proper definition of poverty.

Evaluation of the Documentary

The documentary is very informative as it gives all the details that are often ignored. There are also clear examples of countries that have been rendered poor since the arrival of colonial powers and how it subsequently led to death of millions of people, for instance in Bolivia. The hegemonic struggle during the cold war is mentioned while the documentary remains relevant to the issue of poverty. This documentary captures the real interest of the developed countries in the affairs of the developing countries to the extent of supporting only leaders who will only meet the economic needs of their own country. There are facts that are also given which makes the documentary more convincing to the targeted audience. For instance, the planned assassination and coup d’etat that were allegedly supported by government agencies in the developed countries for instance in Guatemala, Chile, Congo and Iraq. In this documentary, it is quite obvious that if the leaders in poor countries do not play by their rules then they are likely to face the same fate of being thrown out of power or getting assassinated (The end of poverty). All these facts show how influential the wealthy countries are in determining the fate of millions of people in a country that is rich in natural resources to be forever ensnared in a cycle of poverty that seems to have no end. The documentary has definitely changed by my mind on my perception of poverty for example that poverty is not a burden that the poor countries should be left to carry alone. Poverty per se is not the making of the leaders of the poor countries. Former colonies in Africa, Latin America and Asia never made a choice to be colonized and remain under the mercies of the developed countries forever. Poverty has become worse than it was more than hundred years ago  because developing countries have found themselves in an unfair system. In this system, there are rules that are already made which do not give developing countries a chance to develop and alleviate their own people from poverty.


Works Cited

Capitalism Under. Capitalism under Attack This Fall. n.d. Retrieved 11th 2012 < http://theendofpoverty.com/pdf/TEOPTheatricalAnnounceFinal.pdf.>

Deaton, Angus. World Banks 1.25/ day poverty measure-countering the latest criticisms. http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/EXTRESEARCH/0,,contentMDK:22510787~pagePK:64165401~piPK:64165026~theSitePK:469382,00.html

Hazlitt, Henry. How Progressive Capitalism Conquers Mass Poverty.2009. Retrieved 10th September 2012 <http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article15543.html>

Winniefridah, Matsa. “ Who is Dependant, Third or First World, women or Men ? Salient Features of Dependency and Interdependency”. Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa. 13.16 (2011):314-327

The end of poverty. Dir. Phillipe, Diaz. Cinema libre studio, 2009.

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