Is less dedicated to eliminating poverty than to

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is less dedicated to eliminating poverty than to eradicating a deviant subculture that offends bourgeois sensibilities. Expressing perplexity over a "cryptic" passage in which Lewis discusses the possibility of using social work-based tech- niques of intervention to combat poverty in America, Valentine brings his critique to a head, writing: Ultimately, [Lewis] is saying that the alleged culture patterns of the lower class are more important in their lives than the condition of being poor and, consis- tently, that it is more important for the power holders of society to abolish these lifeways than to do away with poverty-even if eradicating poverty can be done more quickly and easily. What can be the basis for this set of judgments and valuations? It is difficult to imagine what this might be, except a profound implicit conviction that the life- ways of the poor are inherently deserving of destruction. If it is relatively easy to do away with poverty itself, then why not do so and then let the ex-poor live as they please? Or if we believe there is a "culture of poverty" which is not good for those who live by it, then why not first tackle the more tractable problem of relieving their material deprivation and then go on to build upon their more comfortable circumstances in order to save them from those more difficult and deep-seated culture patterns? No, it is the "culture" that must go first before the poor can be given what everybody else already possesses and many of us take for granted. In short, the poor must become "middle class," perhaps through "psychiatric treatment," and then we shall see what can be done about their poverty. This is indeed the "social-work solution," as Lewis calls it. The only alternative to it is revolution, and that is allowable only far from home in backward coun- tries where there are not enough psychiatrists and social workers to go around. Even there, the chief interest in revolution is that it may change the culture, whether or not it relieves material want. (Valentine 1968:74-75) Lest we miss the relevance of Lewis's work for the debate over race, poverty and lower class culture, Valentine concludes: This content downloaded from 146.163.252.46 on Sat, 13 Feb 2021 17:59:39 UTC All use subject to
The Culture of Poverty 471 Now care must be taken not to read too much into a few brief passages. So let us return to the literal meaning of our sources. Lewis says that the social-work- cum-psychiatry approach of altering the behavior of the poor is "the major solu- tion" for problems connected with poverty in the United States. This is no different in essence from the writings by sociological and other proponents of "lower-class culture" which indicate, either by implication or quite bluntly, that the poor must first of all conform to conventional standards of respectability, until they find some way (none suggested) to eliminate their socioeconomic dependency. Thus the twin concepts, "culture of poverty" and "lower-class culture," have essentially identical implications in relation to major issues of

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