Friday, March 02, 2012

Culture and Poverty

The New York Times has an article covering the concept of the culture of poverty here. The article is fairly accurate, and does a good job highlighting that the study of culture and poverty had its origins in left-wing Marxists (although I would have mentioned Bowles and Gintis, who emphasized that cultural values and norms of obedience to capitalist ideologies rather than intelligence contribute to the social reproduction of inequality). The author elides the fact that the problem with the concept of the "culture of poverty" is that such a thing does not, and never has, existed: culture is everywhere, not just among the a subset of the economically disadvantaged. The appropriate question, then, is: given that we know that culture is a constituent part of the human experience, how does it matter not just for poverty, but for happiness, well-being, inequality, wealth, and so on?