One of the more influential social studies books of recent year has been The Spirit Level. Its co-author Richard Wilkinson was interviewed by the radcal magazine Red Pepper. Amongst other things he had this to say.
"If I had been living in the 19th century and someone told me now most of the population have air conditioning, and enough food to eat and obesity would have reversed its social distribution, I would have thought we are living in some kind of utopian harmony...Economics is based on the idea that the primary relationship is between people and material things. Our book in a way is saying the primary relationship is between people and people."
This is very much in tune with Marx's 19th Century explanation of poverty where he stated :
"A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighboring palace rises in equal or even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls."