All entries for Monday 04 June 2007

June 04, 2007

The Beggars' Place in the Social Biospehre

Attention. This is a passenger announcement: Beggars occasionally board the trains. Please do not encourage them by giving money. If you see a beggar on this train, please tell a member of staff.

If we take Darwin’s theory of biosphere, in particular the interdependence between species in a biosphere, and apply that relationship to social sphere, then, theoretically, if there were no beggars, then there would be an imbalance of some kind. But what would really change if there were no beggars? Can beggars be equated to the species that have no natural enemies?

The existence of the social niche filled by beggar-ism can be viewed as an alternative social form. Variety of social roles as well as good social mobility is paramount to an open liberal society. Perhaps the sole reason for the existence of beggar-ism and general social tolerance to it lays in the fact that beggars still hold a place on the ladder of society and the position of beggar-ism provides a social safety net.

If there were no beggars, an altogether different social class would be filling the gap and laying down the safety net. With beggars being the less populous social form, or for other unstudied reasons, there are no riot eruptions to be seen. However, if the beggars as a social class cease to exist, then the social balance would shift and a much more populous group may feel increasingly insecure and ‘on the edge’ of social ladder, thus creating a prerequisite for social instability.

It is thus evident that beggars as a social class are neither irrelevant or redundant in a developed society.


According to Bhikhu Parekh, the three fundamental assumptions that relativism makes are that:

  1. Individuals are determined, constituted or profoundly shaped by their culture or society, and as a result are unable to rise about its beliefs and modes of thought.
  2. Different societies entertain different bodies of beliefs and we have no means of judging these.
  3. The prevailing system of beliefs and practices best suits its members, who are therefore right to live by it.

However, globalisation brought increased and more profound cultural exchanges that enables people to think outside the patter of their cultures, to accept different criteria of judgement and to improve upon a nation’s life by modifying its received perceptions and moral standards. Thus, globalisation in asserting the validity of different cultures and backing relativism at the same time serves the strongest argument in denying the relevance of relativism.

Reference: Bhikhu Parekh, Non-ethnocentric universalism in Dunne, T. and Wheeler, N. J. (ed.) 1999. Human Rights in Global Politics. Cambridge, CUP

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