Download Adolph Reed Jr.-class Notes_ Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene-The New Press (2001) PDF

TitleAdolph Reed Jr.-class Notes_ Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene-The New Press (2001)
File Size5.0 MB
Total Pages242
Table of Contents
                            Contents
Preface
Introduction
Part One: Issues in Black Public Life
	Why Is There No Black Political Movement?
	The Curse of "Community"
	Romancing Jim Crow
	Have We Exhaled Yet?
	We Were Framed
	What Color Is Antisemitism?
	The Rise of Louis Farrakhan
	Triumph of the Tuskegee Will
	Martyrs and False Populists
	Tokens of the White Left
	"What Are the Drums Saying, Booker?": The Curious Role of the Black Public Intellectual
Part Two: Equality & Ideology in American Politics
	The Underclass Myth
	Pimping Poverty, Then and Now
	Liberals, I Do Despise
	Kiss the Family Goodbye
	A Polluted Debate
	Nasty Habits
	A Livable Wage
	Token Equality
	Skin Deep
	The Content of Our Cardiovascular
	Looking Backward
Part Three: The Question of Practice
	Posing as Politics
	Ethnic Studies and Pluralist Politics
	The Battle of Liberty Monument
	Looking Back at Brown
	Sectarians on the Prowl
	"Fayettenam," 1969: Tales from a G.I. Coffeehouse
	The Longer March
	Building Solidarity
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 1

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Page 2

C L A S S N O T E S
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T H E NEW PRESS NEW Y O R K

Page 122

The Underclass Myth

I
n recent years the image of an urban “ underclass” has become
the central representation of poverty in American society. In
less than a decade the underclass took hold of the public imagi­

nation, and came to shape policymakers’ agendas concerning issues
of race, urban decay, and social welfare. But what is the underclass?
What is so compelling about that image? What is its significance in
American political life?

The underclass idea rests on fuzzy and disturbing assumptions
about poor people, poverty, and the world in which both are repro­
duced. Those assumptions amount to tacit— and sometimes
explicit— claims regarding the defective nature of poor people’s
motivations, moral character, and behavior. They appeal to hoary
prejudices of race, gender, and class which give the upper-class im­
age instant acceptance and verisimilitude even though it is ambigu­
ous and inconsistent on its own terms.

Right-wing, mean-spirited beliefs about poor people have come
to suffuse even self-consciously liberal, technocratic policy discus­
sion. Such supposed “ friends of the poor” as Charles Murray,
Lawrence Mead, Nicholas Lemann, Mickey Kaus, Thomas Sowell,
Walter Williams, Robert Woodson, and Glen Loury assume the
need to correct, or at least to take into account, poor people’s de­
fective tendencies as an essential limit on social policy. The reac­
tionary, purely ideological foundation of the underclass idea
becomes clear on close examination.

Although the term has been around for longer, it caught fire in
popular and academic circles after Ken Auletta canonized it in 1982
in ���� 7����� ��� , a journalistic, mock-ethnographic essay origi­
nally serialized in ����!��� :��;��

Auletta began by joining “poverty” and “ antisocial behavior” as
equivalent qualifications for underclass status. “ The underclass
need not be poor— street criminals, for instance, usually are not,”
he wrote. “ The underclass usually operates outside the generally
accepted boundaries of society. They are often set apart by their
‘deviant’ or antisocial behavior, by their bad habits, not just their
poverty.”

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