THE OTHER AMERICA by Michael Harrington


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The idea and scope of this book, on the face of it, is very promising. The reader is to be led on a journey through the economic subterranean world, overlooked in our conception of ourselves and neglected in print. But, somehow, despite the clear evidence of scholarship and breadth of imagination the journey becomes routine. This is the case against poverty in America. It is intended, so the author states, to raise moral indignation. On the whole its thesis is straight and unassailable. Approximately 40 to 50 million Americans are trapped in a ""culture of poverty"" from which they cannot escape. They form an insular society alienated in every human way from the legacy of the welfare state begun in the thirties. Here are Negroes, Puerto Ricans, migrant workers, the aged, industrial rejects -- the fringe life without the passports of minimum protection and safeguards. Each area of this ""culture of poverty"" is examined, with occasional direct anecdotal material as the author has brushed with the poor in his own experience. Unfortunately the deficiencies of the book run within its set limits. The book is polemic yet it fails to point to causative factors. Moral indignation without direction is futile. The author states, for example, that the merged labor movement has done most for these groups in terms of legislative lobbying. He fails to add, however, that the AFL-CIO has pursued a restrictive policy of exclusion towards these ""sub- proletarians"" within their own unions. But The Other America does signal service, read as merely the casebook counterpart to the great unwritten novel of poverty.

ISBN: 068482678X
Publisher: Macmillan