Code of the Street: Decency, Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City

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9780393040234: Code of the Street: Decency, Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City
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Inner-city black America is often defined by random, senseless street violence. In fact, although violence is a salient feature, its use is far from random; it is regulated through an informal but well-known code of the street. How you dress, how you talk, whether you make eye-contact, your understanding of the pecking order - such crucial details can have life-or-death consequences and young people are particularly at risk. In this anatomy of the inner-city psyche, the author shows how the code is a response to the lack of well-paid jobs; to the stigma of race; to rampant drug use; to alienation and to lack of hope. The police exercise no control, and the individual's safety and sense of worth are defined by how much respect he can command in public; this deference is based physical and psycholgical control and on an implied threat of violence. The most powerful force counteracting the code is the strong, loving decent family. Unfortunately, the culture of the street thrives and often defeats decency because it controls public space so that individuals with better aspirations are often entangled in the code.

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Review:

One of the most interesting examinations of poverty, violence and sociology to emerge in recent years.

A brilliant diagnosis of the internal factors that hold blacks back.

One of our best ethnographers.... Anderson is excellent in explaining how the criminal element, through a numerical minority, comes to dominate public space.

Important.... [Anderson] demonstrates, time and again, how optimism, ambition and decency can sprout in the most unlikely places, given even the slimmest chance.

Eloquent and moving.... A strikingly powerful work that rings with urgency.--Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here

This is the best treatment we have of the tormented inner life of young people wrestling with nihilism in a society indifferent to their plight and predicament.--Cornel West

About the Author:

Elijah Anderson holds the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professorship in Sociology at Yale University, where he teaches and directs the Urban Ethnography Project. His most prominent works include the award-winning books Code of the Street and Streetwise. He lives in New Haven and Philadelphia.

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