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Re: [xmca] return of culture of poverty

Mike & others
I have highlighted one section by Mario Luis Small from your post to focus
on a central aspect of CoP as I see it.

Mario Luis Small, a sociologist at the University of
an editor of The Annals’ special issue, tried to figure out why some
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,” <
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.

The reason I highlighted this Small's research is it points to a central
dynamic of the "culture" of poverty.  It is a culture of ISOLATION.  This
single fact, a PERCEPTION that ones PERSONAL  existence does NOT MATTER to
the larger institutional arrangements of the social structure.  It also
shows how "reaching out and connecting" is central to ending isolation.

Robert Sampson's study in Chicago also points to the centrality of ISOLATION
as determinative of the CoP.  He was asking if different groups have
different frameworks or signs that "others are looking out for one
another."  Income levels did NOT explain the difference. However CULTURAL
NORMS [the level of cynicism & disorder] did predict the quality of the life

Small's and Sampson's research point to culture as SHARED
understandings. For example, is the neighbourhood rising or stagnating?  If
I become overwhelmed by life am I on my own or will my neighbourhood support
me?  Do I need a gun in order to feel safe?  The answers to these questions
are NOT individual but NORMATIVE.

These examples are screaming out the fact that our lives our NORMATIVE,
ethical, and moral "all the way down".  Empirical science is biased towards
the search for "truth" and "knowledge" as foundational normative
pursuits. [with the corresponding myth of value neutrality]  The reification
of the ISOLATED individual who is the central character in scientific
psychological accounts is just another NORMATIVE dead end. [as our current
times exemplify]
  I wonder if "income redistribution" wthout a shift in NORMATIVE values
will change the ISOLATION experienced by persons living within a CoP.  The
question has been asked if we must change the larger socioeconomic order, or
change the "self".  I would suggest we must engage fully with questions of
ETHICS, VALUES, and MORALS in examining the "good" as the central question.
The kind of "self" that exists and the kind of socioeconomic structures
REFLECT  particular situated NORMATIVE value SYSTEMS which currently support
ISOLATION or the feared ANTICIPATION of ISOLATION if one falls "between the
cracks".  I would suggest the "ANTICIPATION of isolation" is a constant
worry for many in the "middle class" who are loosing their jobs and their

 My central point is that these events can be framed psychologically,
sociologically, economically, ideologically, religiously, OR ETHICALLY and
MORALLY. All these various narrative frameworks ARE NORMATIVE and it is the
SHARED and MUTUALLY co-ordinating frameworks which guide how we act in the
world.  Change the NORMATIVE "tradition" "ground" or "framework" and we
change the world.

Developmentally, this is an HISTORICAL process,  and I believe developing a
REFLECTIVE historical consciousness is one approach to get some "distance"
from our current situation and see how other cultures and other times framed
the "good" life.


On Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 5:24 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> This topic is, indeed, coming back in a big way.
> mike
> October 17, 2010
> ‘Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback By PATRICIA
> 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<http://home.uchicago.edu/~mariosmall/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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