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Re: [xmca] return of culture of poverty

Hi Vera,
I was referring to the NY Times article that Mike referenced and included in his email (below).

On Nov 8, 2010, at 11:18 PM, Vera John-Steiner wrote:

> Hi Lois,
> I am curious about "the return of the sulture of poverty", I have written about it with Eleanor Leacock when the term was first bandied about. I would appreciate a reference,
> thanks,
> Vera
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Lois Holzman" <lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org>
> To: <lchcmike@gmail.com>; "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Sent: Monday, November 08, 2010 7:29 PM
> Subject: Re: [xmca] return of culture of poverty
> MIke,
> I read that article when it came out a few weeks back. How do you understand it politically?
> Lois
> Don't forget to check out the latest at http://loisholzman.org
> Lois Holzman, Ph.D.
> Director, East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy
> 920 Broadway, 14th floor
> New York NY 10010
> Chair, Global Outreach for UX (www.allstars.org/ux)
> tel. 212.941.8906 ext. 324
> fax 718.797.3966
> lholzman@eastsideinstitute.org
> www.eastsideinstitute.org
> www.performingtheworld.org
> loisholzman.org
> www.allstars.org
> On Nov 8, 2010, at 8:24 PM, mike cole wrote:
>> This topic is, indeed, coming back in a big way.
>> mike
>> October 17, 2010
>> ‘Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback By PATRICIA
>> COHEN<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/patricia_cohen/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
>> For more than 40 years, social scientists investigating the causes of
>> poverty have tended to treat cultural explanations like Lord Voldemort: That
>> Which Must Not Be Named.
>> The reticence was a legacy of the ugly battles that erupted after Daniel
>> Patrick Moynihan<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/daniel_patrick_moynihan/index.html?inline=nyt-per>,
>> then an assistant labor secretary in the Johnson administration, introduced
>> the idea of a “culture of poverty” to the public in a startling 1965
>> report<http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/webid-meynihan.htm>.
>> Although Moynihan didn’t coin the phrase (that distinction belongs to the
>> anthropologist Oscar Lewis <http://www.blacksacademy.net/content/3253.html>),
>> his description of the urban black family as caught in an inescapable
>> “tangle of pathology” of unmarried mothers and welfare dependency was seen
>> as attributing self-perpetuating moral deficiencies to black people, as if
>> blaming them for their own misfortune.
>> Moynihan’s analysis never lost its appeal to conservative thinkers, whose
>> arguments ultimately succeeded when President Bill
>> Clinton<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/bill_clinton/index.html?inline=nyt-per>signed
>> a bill in 1996 “ending welfare as we know it.” But in the
>> overwhelmingly liberal ranks of academic sociology and anthropology the word
>> “culture” became a live grenade, and the idea that attitudes and behavior
>> patterns kept people poor was shunned.
>> Now, after decades of silence, these scholars are speaking openly about
>> you-know-what, conceding that culture and persistent poverty are enmeshed.
>> “We’ve finally reached the stage where people aren’t afraid of being
>> politically incorrect,” said Douglas S. Massey, a sociologist at Princeton
>> who has argued <http://ann.sagepub.com/content/621/1.toc> that Moynihan was
>> unfairly maligned.
>> The old debate has shaped the new. Last month Princeton and the Brookings
>> Institution<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/b/brookings_institution/index.html?inline=nyt-org>released
>> a collection
>> of papers<http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=73>on
>> unmarried parents, a subject, it noted, that became off-limits after
>> the
>> Moynihan report. At the recent annual meeting of the American Sociological
>> Association, attendees discussed the resurgence of scholarship on culture.
>> And in Washington last spring, social scientists participated in a
>> Congressional
>> briefing<http://www.aapss.org/news/2010/06/18/reconsidering-culture-and-poverty-a-congressional-briefing>on
>> culture and poverty linked to a special issue
>> of The Annals <http://ann.sagepub.com/content/629/1/6.full.pdf+html>, the
>> journal of the American Academy of Political and Social
>> Science<http://www.aapss.org/>.
>> “Culture is back on the poverty research agenda,” the introduction declares,
>> acknowledging that it should never have been removed.
>> The topic has generated interest on Capitol Hill because so much of the
>> research intersects with policy debates. Views of the cultural roots of
>> poverty “play important roles in shaping how lawmakers choose to address
>> poverty issues,” Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, noted
>> at the briefing.
>> This surge of academic research also comes as the percentage of Americans
>> living in poverty<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/17/us/17poverty.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=eric%20eckholm%20poverty&st=cse>hit
>> a 15-year high: one in seven, or 44 million.
>> With these studies come many new and varied definitions of culture, but they
>> all differ from the ’60s-era model in these crucial respects: Today, social
>> scientists are rejecting the notion of a monolithic and unchanging culture
>> of poverty. And they attribute destructive attitudes and behavior not to
>> inherent moral character but to sustained racism and isolation.
>> To Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at
>> Harvard<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/harvard_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
>> culture is best understood as “shared understandings.”
>> “I study inequality, and the dominant focus is on structures of poverty,” he
>> said. But he added that the reason a neighborhood turns into a “poverty
>> trap” is also related to a common perception of the way people in a
>> community act and think. When people see graffiti and garbage, do they find
>> it acceptable or see serious disorder? Do they respect the legal system or
>> have a high level of “moral cynicism,” believing that “laws were made to be
>> broken”?
>> As part of a large research project in Chicago, Professor Sampson walked
>> through different neighborhoods this summer, dropping stamped, addressed
>> envelopes to see how many people would pick up an apparently lost letter and
>> mail it, a sign that looking out for others is part of the community’s
>> culture.
>> In some neighborhoods, like Grand Boulevard, where the notorious Robert
>> Taylor public housing projects once stood, almost no envelopes were mailed;
>> in others researchers received more than half of the letters back. Income
>> levels did not necessarily explain the difference, Professor Sampson said,
>> but rather the community’s cultural norms, the levels of moral cynicism and
>> disorder.
>> The shared perception of a neighborhood — is it on the rise or stagnant? —
>> does a better job of predicting a community’s future than the actual level
>> of poverty, he said.
>> William Julius Wilson<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/w/william_julius_wilson/index.html?inline=nyt-per>,
>> whose pioneering work boldly confronted ghetto life while focusing on
>> economic explanations for persistent poverty, defines culture as the way
>> “individuals in a community develop an understanding of how the world works
>> and make decisions based on that understanding.”
>> For some young black men, Professor Wilson, a Harvard sociologist, said, the
>> world works like this: “If you don’t develop a tough demeanor, you won’t
>> survive. If you have access to weapons, you get them, and if you get into a
>> fight, you have to use them.”
>> Seeking to recapture the topic from economists, sociologists have ventured
>> into poor neighborhoods to delve deeper into the attitudes of residents.
>> Their results have challenged some common assumptions, like the belief that
>> poor mothers remain single because they don’t value marriage.
>> In Philadelphia, for example, low-income mothers told the sociologists
>> Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas that they thought marriage was profoundly
>> important, even sacred, but doubted that their partners were “marriage
>> material.” Their results have prompted some lawmakers and poverty experts to
>> conclude that programs that promote marriage without changing economic and
>> social conditions are unlikely to work.
>> Mario Luis Small, a sociologist at the University of
>> Chicago<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/university_of_chicago/index.html?inline=nyt-org>and
>> an editor of The Annals’ special issue, tried to figure out why some
>> New
>> York City mothers with children in day care developed networks of support
>> while others did not. As he explained in his 2009 book, “Unanticipated
>> Gains,” <http://home.uchicago.edu/%7Emariosmall/documents/UG_Chapter1.pdf>the
>> answer did not depend on income or ethnicity, but rather the rules of
>> the day-care institution. Centers that held frequent field trips, organized
>> parents’ associations and had pick-up and drop-off procedures created more
>> opportunities for parents to connect.
>> Younger academics like Professor Small, 35, attributed the upswing in
>> cultural explanations to a “new generation of scholars without the baggage
>> of that debate.”
>> Scholars like Professor Wilson, 74, who have tilled the field much longer,
>> mentioned the development of more sophisticated data and analytical tools.
>> He said he felt compelled to look more closely at culture after the
>> publication of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s controversial 1994
>> book, “The Bell Curve,” which attributed African-Americans’ lower I.Q.
>> scores to genetics.
>> The authors claimed to have taken family background into account, Professor
>> Wilson said, but “they had not captured the cumulative effects of living in
>> poor, racially segregated neighborhoods.”
>> He added, “I realized we needed a comprehensive measure of the environment,
>> that we must consider structural *and* cultural forces.”
>> He mentioned a study by Professor Sampson, 54, that found that growing up in
>> areas where violence limits socializing outside the family and where parents
>> haven’t attended college stunts verbal ability, lowering I.Q. scores by as
>> much as six points, the equivalent of missing more than a year in school.
>> Changes outside campuses have made conversation about the cultural roots of
>> poverty easier than it was in the ’60s. Divorce, living together without
>> marrying, and single motherhood are now commonplace. At the same time
>> prominent African-Americans have begun to speak out on the subject. In 2004
>> the comedian Bill
>> Cosby<http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/billcosbypoundcakespeech.htm>made
>> headlines when he criticized poor blacks for “not parenting” and
>> dropping out of school. President
>> Obama<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/o/barack_obama/index.html?inline=nyt-per>,
>> who was abandoned by his father, has repeatedly talked about “responsible
>> fatherhood.”
>> Conservatives also deserve credit, said Kay S. Hymowitz, a fellow at the
>> conservative Manhattan Institute, for their sustained focus on family values
>> and marriage even when cultural explanations were disparaged.
>> Still, worries about blaming the victim persist. Policy makers and the
>> public still tend to view poverty through one of two competing lenses, Michèle
>> Lamont <http://www2.cifar.ca/research/successful-societies-program/>,
>> another editor of the special issue of The Annals, said: “Are the poor poor
>> because they are lazy, or are the poor poor because they are a victim of the
>> markets?”
>> So even now some sociologists avoid words like “values” and “morals” or
>> reject the idea that, as The Annals put it, “a group’s culture is more or
>> less coherent.” Watered-down definitions of culture, Ms. Hymowitz
>> complained, reduce some of the new work to “sociological pablum.”
>> “If anthropologists had come away from doing field work in New Guinea
>> concluding ‘everyone’s different,’ but sometimes people help each other
>> out,” she wrote in an e-mail, “there would be no field of anthropology — and
>> no word culture for cultural sociologists to bend to their will.”
>> Fuzzy definitions or not, culture is back. This prompted mock surprise from
>> Rep. Woolsey at last spring’s Congressional briefing: “What a concept.
>> Values, norms, beliefs play very important roles in the way people meet the
>> challenges of poverty.”
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