Leo de Haan
Livelihoods studies aim to contribute to the understanding of poor people’s lives with the ambition of enhancing their livelihoods. This introductory chapter starts with a brief overview of the origin and gist of livelihoods studies. It shows that the livelihoods approach grew out of the frameworks and toolboxes of the 1990s with little historical and theoretical depth. Nowadays livelihoods studies work from a theoretically informed holistic and critical perspective on how the poor organise their livelihoods. At present, persisting and rising inequalities represent the main global social problem instead of ‘poverty as such’. Therefore the essence of livelihoods studies has moved from poverty to understanding how the poor can be ‘included’. This in turn requires a thorough understanding of the exclusionary processes the poor are subject to. These can best be examined through a layered analysis: a first layer of access to resources and opportunities; a second, underlying layer of power relations and power struggles; and a third, even deeper layer of impeding structures. The metaphor of a livelihoods journey, an historical trajectory through an enormous labyrinth of rooms, corridors and other spaces serves as an illustration of this layered analysis. Finally, the chapter points at four key dimensions in contemporary livelihood studies – power, pathways, violent conflict, and acceleration of mobility – on which this volume offers conceptual innovations.
Leo de Haan
This chapter discusses – in terms of four key dimensions – the prospects for further conceptual innovation in livelihood studies which are offered by the contributions to this volume. First, with respect to power, the guidance offered by Bourdieu’s theory of practice is widely acknowledged. Moreover, the prevailing distinction between apolitical and political positions does not hold any longer. Instead, bringing the distinction between ‘power to’ and ‘power over’ through a renewed attention to agency and structure is shown to be much more productive. The concept of political arena can provide space for such a bridging analysis as it is embedded in both Foucauldian and Bourdieusian notions of power. Second, livelihood trajectories and livelihood pathways proved a solid method to identify regularities and patterns in livelihoods, including exclusionary processes, as a step towards more general conclusions and generalisations beyond the local and the case level. In addition, fruitful entries to connect the local to the global were revealed and the holistic nature of contemporary livelihoods studies was reconfirmed. Third, fundamental threats to human security such as extreme violence and fear and their repercussions to people’s livelihoods were innovatively conceptualised by integrating notions from political economy, postcolonialism and bio-politics. Fourth, unprecedented acceleration of mobility gives rise to translocality implying that livelihoods are organised in social fields which stretch over borders and connect different places and social contexts. Moreover, mobility is inextricably bound up with immobility: mobility of the one engenders immobility of the other. Besides, physical mobility is being replaced with more intangible forms of mobilities. Finally, social exclusion became apparent on all four dimensions and so were directions to countervail it.