The Culture of Poverty is a theory that was introduced by Oscar Lewis, and is defined as “a label for a specific conceptual model that describes in positive terms a subculture of western society with its own structure and rationale, a way of life handed on from generation to generation.” (Lewis, p19) This concept which has helped shape the liberal discourse of the 1960s, purports that there are persons who remain mired in poverty because their lifestyle entrenches them in the low socioeconomic bracket which in turn obstructs their social mobility. David L. Harvey with contribution by Michael Reed, analyzed Lewis’ theory in their paper The Culture of Poverty: An Ideological Analysis. In this writing they concluded that Lewis was rooted in a Marxist background and argued that liberal and conservative thinkers have misinterpreted its application over the years. Harvey and Reed’s critique will be used to examine the conservative position on poverty that Lawrence Mead uses in his writing of The Logic of Workfare: the Underclass and Work Policy, and the validity of Harvey and Reed’s position will also be assessed.In 1958, Oscar Lewis began to research the subject of poverty, the results of which provided the foundation for his theory “The Culture of Poverty.” Lewis’ research revealed that those living in poverty displayed an ongoing pattern which was passed on through generations and therefore, their social trajectory was predictable. Data was collected from families in Mexico and Puerto Rico and Lewis (1966) documented the observations made on aspect of these groups of families, including “residence and employment history of each adult, family relations; income and expenditure; complete inventory of household and personal possessio…
…scar Lewis makes a statement to this effect…” and “Along similar lines, the position taken by Daniel P. Moynihan…[emphasis ours].” (p.472) This is a direct example of a writer manipulating a work to prove their argument. The second writer was Carol Stack who piggy backed off of Valentines discussion of how Lewis victimized those living in power by highlighting that he viewed the poor in a negative manner.
Harvey L. D., Reed M.H., The Culture of Poverty: An Ideological Analysis, Sociological Perspective, Volume 29, NO.4 (Winter 1996), pp. 465-495Marx, K. & Engels, F. Manifesto of the Communist PartyLewis O., The Culture of Poverty, Scientific American, Oct. 1966, Volume 215, No. 4, pp. 19-25Mead L., The Logic of Workfare: The Underclass and Work Policy, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1989, pp. 156-169