This chapter introduces the main argument, research questions, and contents of the book. The main argument of the book is that poverty is principally a political problem. The substantial cross‐national variation in poverty among affluent democracies is described. Institutionalized power relations theory—including its components welfare generosity, Leftist collective political actors, latent coalitions for egalitarianism, and institutionalized politics—is articulated. The argument is made that poverty is lower and equality is more likely to be established where welfare states are generous, Leftist collective political actors are in power, latent coalitions for egalitarianism exert influence, and all of this is institutionalized in the formal political arena. Then, the chapter discusses and critiques individualism, which is arguably the dominant perspective on poverty. Although individualistic accounts of poverty have made significant contributions, this perspective is limited because of the cross‐level inference problem, the neglect of relations and context, and an unsatisfactory empirical performance. Finally, this chapter briefly describes the empirical approach of the book and the contents of the chapters.
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