War Against the Poor by Herbert J. Gans
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War Against the Poor
By Herbert J. Gans

The War Against the Poor

The Underclass and Antipoverty Policy

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Format: Paperback

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War Against the Poor by Herbert J. Gans

Book Awards

  • Winner of Choice Magazine Outstanding Reference/Academic Book Award 1996.

Book Description

In his withering dissection of the origins and misuse of the term "underclass" to stereotype and stigmatize the poor, Herbert J. Gans shows how this ubiquitous label has relegated a wide variety of people--welfare recipients, the working poor, teenage mothers, drug addicts, the homeless, and others--to a single condemned class, feared and despised by the rest of society. Probing the deep psychological, social, and political reasons why Americans seek to indict millions of poor citizens as "undeserving," Gans calls for a cease-fire in the undeclared war against the poor. He concludes with a set of innovative, job-centered policy proposals and a multifaceted educational plan to stop the endless flow of new recruits into America's untouchable caste.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465019915
ISBN-10: 0465019919
Format: Paperback
(203mm x 127mm x 15mm)
Pages: 208
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 7-Jun-1996
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions...

Books By Author Herbert J. Gans

Popular Culture and High Culture by Herbert J. Gans Popular Culture and High Culture, Paperback (September 1999)

In this brilliantly conceived and clearly argued discussion of the relationship between high and popular culture, Herbert Gans, outspoken advocate of cultural pluralism, questions the universality of high culture standards.

People, Plans and Policies by Herbert J. Gans People, Plans and Policies, Paperback (May 1994)

A collection of essays which explores the problems of crime and racism in urban America. The author believes that the low quality of life for the poor in urban areas will persist until the issues of racial equality, job creation and social reform are addressed and solutions found.

» View all books by Herbert J. Gans


US Kirkus Review » Sociologist Gans (Columbia; Middle American Individualism, 1988, etc.) deconstructs the pejorative label "underclass" and offers some pie-in-the-sky proposals for eliminating poverty in America. According to Gans, since 1980 a diverse cross-section of poor Americans have been lumped together as "the underclass" and thus banished from mainstream society. Welfare recipients, school dropouts, panhandlers, drug addicts, street criminals, illegal immigrants, and assorted others have all been shoved under the derogatory umbrella label, which has become a behavioral term connoting "moral deficiencies [and] bad values." Gans traces the word "underclass" to a brief passage in a 1963 book by Gunnar Myrdal that described the economic victims of deindustrialization. Gans then shows how the word was transformed into a stigma by a succession of journalists and social scientists who assumed from the start that the underclass was black. The author's deconstruction of the popular misnomer is instructive; nevertheless, he stops short of full-scale analysis, maintaining that society is not a "text." Instead, his interest here is in how the popularization of the behavioral label "underclass" has resulted in certain political actions (such as current efforts to eliminate welfare as a means of eliminating morally suspect welfare dependency) and in certain popular trends (such as the proliferation of racist talk radio and books like The Bell Curve). The book's second section is an academic's wish list for an antipoverty program that would assimilate the underclass into American society: Gans favors massive job creation by private industry plus government-sponsored public works, "drastic work-sharing," and value-added taxes, as well as a variety of nebulous measures, such as "the separation of work from income" through a minimum income guarantee and "a yet-to-be-invented method" for media to debunk class stereotypes. Gans's analysis of the popular code word reads like a fascinating footnote; the rest of the book is familiar going. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Herbert J. Gans

Herbert J. Gans, author of Levittowners and The Urban Villagers, is professor of sociology at Columbia University and the former president of the American Sociological Association.

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