‘Not too high, not too low’: The politics of poverty measurement and the reconfiguration of the state in Jordan

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Abstract

This paper explores the politics of creating and calibrating poverty indicators in Jordan using interviews with policy-shapers and documentary analysis conducted between 2009-2016. It analyses interactions between international and host country agencies, and highlights the significance of these dynamics for conceptualizing state agency in the politics of development in the Middle East. I argue that Jordan is neither a ‘rentier state’, in which poverty indicators are primarily used to attract foreign aid, nor is it a passive actor buffeted about by global forces and policy blueprints. Instead, it should be seen as a strategic terrain in which various actor-networks composed of donor representatives, international organizations, consultants, statisticians and government officials negotiate different conceptions and indicators of poverty in pursuit of different ends. The battle lines are not so much drawn on a local-global divide, as is often assumed. Rather, trans-scalar coalitions of actors form and dissipate as needs arise. To illustrate this argument, the paper traces the negotiations of several different conceptions and indicators of poverty. It also looks at the compromises made within monetary poverty measurements, which have resulted in poverty rates that are ‘not too high, and not too low’ – in other words, that are palatable for many audiences and vaguely acceptable in most settings
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobalizations
Publication statusAcceptance date - 2020

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