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Abstract

Recently, two entire volumes of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Vol. 621, 2009; and Vol. 627, 2010) were devoted to the resurgence in academic focus around the ‘culture of poverty’, which had receded into the background of academic discourse following the charged rhetoric that accompanied its introduction in the 1960s. In these volumes, several social scientists, writing from a reformulated culture perspective, allow for a more nuanced interpretation of how the poor interpret their world in ways that some earlier culture of poverty frameworks extrapolated on but fell short of clarifying (see also Lamont and Small, 2008; and Small and Newman, 2001). However, given its volatile pedigree, it remains to be seen whether a culture argument, in any of its iterations, will gain traction as a useful paradigm for considering the conditions of the inner-city chronic poor in the US or the social policies to ameliorate them. Left unresolved in much of these current debates is a deeper interrogation of how individual agency engages with the restricted range of social and structural constraints in socially isolated inner-city neighbourhoods (Wilson, 1996; Small and Newman, 2001). It is in such socialising contexts that the cultural experiences of life in poverty are selectively reinforced, including understandings and expectations about how the world operates and what skills and motivations one needs to get by (Ross, 1997). We argue that more emphasis should focus on the link between the socialisation, or the adaptive aspects of culture transmission in the mode of Hannerz (1969), and the social isolation of the inner-city poor.

Citation

Quane, James M., and William Julius Wilson. "Critical Commentary: Making the Connection Between the Socialisation and the Social Isolation of the Inner-city Poor." Urban Studies 49.14 (November 2012): 2977-2987.