culture of poverty


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culture of poverty

the way of life developed and reproduced by poor people; an explanation for the existence of POVERTY in terms of the cultural characteristics of the poor themselves. The term was first used by Oscar LEWIS (1961,1968), who emphasized ‘fatalism’ as the particular aspect of UNDERCLASS subculture which ensured the inheritance of poverty. He argued that the CYCLE OF DEPRIVATION was self-perpetuating and that children were quickly socialized into the values and attitudes of being poor. Lewis argued that the ‘culture of poverty’ in underdeveloped societies, typified by a cash economy and high unemployment, inhibited the inculcation of the ‘modern’ values appropriate for social and economic development. The idea of a culture of poverty has been criticized, notably by Valentine (1968), for its concentration on the familial and local view of poverty which largely places responsibility for poverty on the individual and the family rather than examining the external influences which may preclude social and economic development.

As applied particularly to the Third World, the ‘culture of poverty’ argument can be seen as part of the general debate, which emerged from the work of Talcott PARSONS, about the importance of VALUES in helping or hindering the process of ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. In this way, ‘backward’ values, such as ‘fatalism’ and ‘resignation’, were contrasted with the modernizing values of‘enterprise’ and ‘achievement’ visible in affluent capitalist societies (see also ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVATION).

More recent research suggests that people living in the poor shanty towns described by Lewis do not have a fatalistic attitude within a culture of poverty; rather families and neighbours work together to devise strategies in order to adapt and cope with their changing social and economic circumstances. The impoverished inhabitants of Third World barrios and bidonvilles are far from apathetic. Research has clearly shown (e.g. Roberts, 1978; Lomnitz, 1977) how far the qualities of enterprise and inventiveness are needed simply to ensure survival in such adverse circumstances. Typically, family and neighbours develop complicated survival strategies, often involving the articulation of many different forms of informal and formal economic activity Thus, relatively little empirical support has been found for the ‘culture of poverty’ argument. Other explanations are therefore required for Third World poverty (see UNDERDEVELOPMENT).

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
He aims to challenge the dominant view of Appalachia as a backward and deviant culture of poverty whose religious practices reveal disorganization and alienation in the face of modern life, showing how the Appalachian people adapt inherited traditions based on the 19th century agrarian folklife tradition emphasizing diversity, versatility, and dependence on family, friends, neighbors, and God.
What I discovered was that Belmont was the only community I studied where a culture of poverty played a major role in explaining attitudes and civic behavior.
The capacity to aspire is constituted of four elements, each drawn from different theorists--capability (Amartya Sen), voice (Albert Hirschman), hope (Ernest Bloch) and culture of poverty (Oscar Lewis).
Do the Filipino poor possess a 'culture of poverty,' as first expounded by anthropologist Oscar Lewis, which transcends generations, and is commonly observed among the poor across national boundaries?
The second part of the paper examines the socioeconomic mobility of Puerto Ricans while looking at the applicability of the paradigms known as classic assimilation, underclass or culture of poverty, segmented assimilation, place stratification and stratified ethnoracial incorporation.
The resilient culture of poverty argument emerged after the Civil War to explain why Black Americans could not overcome centuries of enslavement and immiseration, dodging the structural sources of Black poverty and the historical legacies of slavery, settler-colonialism, and Jim Crow.
Starting where the student is means not just offering the remedial education that many need to prepare themselves for college studies, but also overcoming a "culture of poverty - and poverty is about more than money," Spilde said.
The authors largely reviewed the literature surrounding this topic, using the culture of poverty arguments, sociological theory, conflict criminology, and institutional and systemic discrimination to examine these disparities.
Claire added: "We live in a culture of poverty tourism.
Within the physical environment of deprivation, there develops a culture of poverty with its prevalence of disease, social disruption, violence in the home and outside and dependence on drugs and alcohol.
The chapter further analyzes critical race theory and its allegations of institutional racism, biological theories of racial difference and the Bell Curve, culture of poverty explanations of economic deprivation, and the implications for welfare.