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Tocqueville and Kuyper on the Problem of Poverty in Modern Society

Li Ma, Jin Li


In this article, we compare Tocqueville and Kuyper regarding their treatments of poverty as a social problem in modern society. As social thinkers, they both observed poverty as a phenomenon embedded in unprecedented structural changes in Europe after both the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. As statesmen, they both spoke publicly concerning legal and private charity, and they discussed human dignity, morality, and social solidarity. Coming from different theological and political traditions, however, Tocqueville and Kuyper proposed different solutions. Tocqueville warned that state legislation has worsened the situation, locking the poor into perpetual poverty and loss of freedom and dignity. Kuyper stressed the causes and impact of the French Revolution. Not disapproving of legal charity completely, Kuyper placed the role of the state into its God-ordained sphere of sovereignty. By framing human value and dignity into an eternal perspective, Kuyper also proposed means within the church to foster solidarity between rich and poor.

Li Ma and Jin Li, "Tocqueville and Kuyper on the Problem of Poverty in Modern Society," Journal of Markets & Morality 21, no. 2 (Fall 2018): 241258.

Erratum: The text for the initial footnote in the authors byline (*) on page 241 was inadvertently omitted. It should read: The authors thank Lee Hardy and this journals reviewers for their helpful comments.

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