PDF Elijah Anderson ð Code of the Street Decency Violence and the Moral Life of ð

Inner city black America is often stereotyped as a place of random violence but in fact violence in the inner city is regulated through an informal but well known code of the street This unwritten set of rules—based largely on an individual's ability to command respect—is a powerful and pervasive form of etiuette governing the way in which people learn to negotiate public spaces Elijah Anderson's incisive book delineates the code and examines it as a response to the lack of jobs that pay a living wage to the stigma of race to rampant drug use to alienation and lack of hope


10 thoughts on “Code of the Street Decency Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City

  1. says:

    Anderson’s book is an interesting enthralling look at life in inner city Philadelphia His ethnographic portraits of how individuals navigate life in an extremely poor all African American neighborhood are important powerful and add to our understanding of inner city experiences and the legacy of slavery and the ongoing existence of racism and racial segregation However the book has a few problems most of which revolve around gender and Anderson’s attention to it “Code of the Street” is a book where masculinity is everywhere and nowhere at once It is everywhere because the vast majority of the people that he profiles are men So the book centers around their lives; women are often absent or peripheral And yet masculinity is nowhere because Anderson apparently has no knowledge of gender or feminist theory Having most of his informants be men would not be a problem if he would actually talk about why this is the case presumably because as an African American man he had much easier access to African American men in the Philadelphia community that he studied Certainly masculinity studies are incredibly important and we can only understand why and how men got into the mess that they’re in by studying them But Anderson’s lack of explanation leads the reader to wonder if his lack of focus on women springs from his lack of concern with their lives and experiences Why is it that women are most prevalent only in the chapters on pregnancydatingchildbirth and grandmothering? Certainly women have to contribute to his story than just that What are women’s lives like when they aren’t acting as auxiliaries to men? It does not seem that Anderson was intentional in his focus on men While I understand that he is writing a mainstream non academic book a few brief sentences in his introductory chapter would have been sufficient to explain the relative absence of women from his text The second problem is his seeming complete inability to critically analyze gender The men in his book have lives steeped in gender sexism misogyny homophobia self and other policing violence hatred compulsory heterosexuality and prison Yet the term “masculinity” makes very few appearances in this text And it’s not until page 311 that I noticed the term “sexism” show up anywhere Without an overt genderfeminist analysis Anderson misses critical points and potentially insightful analysis that isn’t available through other theoretical frameworks Why is it for instance that men are able to police each other’s behavior so effectively? Why are the men in his book so terrified of not appearing strong? Why does the appearance of strength mean that one is masculine? How is it that particular kinds of masculinity are allowed to “triumph” over others in this or any other community? Who helps perpetuate those images and stereotypes? Why are women relegated to the home and not allowed on the street in the same way that men are? While Anderson is well versed in criticizing racism and classism it appears that sexism and masculinity are not one of his concerns A feminist or gender analysis could have answered all of those uestions His work is so much the poorer for leaving that outTrue Anderson’s book was published in 1999 But there was a solid 35 years of contemporary feminist scholarship out there by that point not to mention reams of historical scholarship And while masculinity studies was still young it certainly existed and was a burgeoning field So Anderson cannot claim that no one else was doing critical analyses of masculinity at that time The absence of it from his book is extremely frustrating and leaves many many uestions unanswered Finally I wish that Anderson would have focused on structural issues within the context of his ethnographic writing While he sprinkles throughout the book small mentions of structural reasons underlying the problems in his chosen Philadelphia community it is not until the end of the last chapter that he really gets into what happened and what needs to change so that the situation can be ameliorated Unfortunately I am concerned that his individual level focus in the rest of the book risks perpetuating the racism of white readers who will see a bunch of dysfunctional violent drug using African American men profiled with a few women thrown in for good measure and have all of their stereotypes and fears of “inner city blacks” confirmed Anderson’s book could have been amazing But it lacks several critical components that in my mind keep it in the category of mediocre scholarship I hope that his subseuent work has improved upon “Code of the Street”


  2. says:

    In fairness I should note that I read this book over a decade after it had been published This aside it is a book that clearly influenced such work as HBO’s The Wire best series everThat said I have to wonder why attention or study wasn’t given to the women In many ways this is a book about men in those areas with little sidebars about the women There is no concrete example given of the women outside the blanket stereotypes that are assigned to them There is nothing wrong with this but the book would have benefited from either 1 detail about the women or 2 cutting the women out to a greater degreeThat complaint aside the book is still a must read for any study of American inner cities Further if you are planning on reading or if you have read Ghettoside this is a good precursor or companion to that work


  3. says:

    I work in the criminal justice system in Philadelphia and have great respect for Elijah Anderson's perspective His accounts and explanations are as real as it gets Anyone who works with poverty stricken at risk populations in urban areas should be aware of Anderson's work This book gets a bit wordy at times but the underlying message is clear We need to do to educate and train these individuals for legitimate professions Otherwise we are going to continue unsuccessfully attempting to arrest our way out of the problem


  4. says:

    yeah Not so much I have many problems with this book First off it is very clearly written by a middle aged man This man has very specific ideas of gender rolls and the place of decency and family values in a community and any different or modern ideas of these things are not considered His opinions which are largely unfounded on teen pregnancy and welfare are vague absurd and apparently based on common rumors spread by young males in the neighborhood They lack even a basic understanding of teenagers women in particular and the options available or not available to them Lastly he distances himself from his telling statements and makes it seem as though the statements are just random unfounded beliefs held by the people he's writing about For example one statement Many assume that the police hold the black community in low repute and sometimes will abuse its members This is not a random assumption that people hold He does not discuss the basis for these assumptions at all Another example A double standard of justice is thought to exist Again it's not just a thought or belief that there is a double standard of justice There are uite of lot of statistics to back their feelings on this one up I understand not wanting to get into these larger issues and what is important for his major points is how the community perceives the system rather than how the system actually is However I think he does a huge disservice to the people he's supposedly educating us about by not including at least a small introduction to where these perceptions come from


  5. says:

    This book proved to be a lot to ponder and realize about the life of a lot of people of color not necessarily those in the inner city I was able to relate to a lot of what was being said and explained and it shed some light on other things that I had not experienced This is a read that can be used as a reference over and over again and it would be right to have this as a bit of reuired reading for college courses it it isn't already This would have been a good resource for my African American studies class at my HBCU


  6. says:

    In this ethnographic study of North Philadelphia street culture Anderson reproduces many of the myths about a self destructive black urban underclass While he avoids outright victim blaming by accepting the then common culture of poverty narrative Anderson locates the root of urban poverty and its byproducts not in the fundamental economic and political ineuality created and perpetuated by capitalism but in black pathology Further Anderson's own moral predispositions permeate his discussion of what he calls street and decent people The very words through which he draws this dichotomy reflect his belief that the ghetto is engaged in some kind of epic struggle between good and evil it is no challenge to determine which team Anderson is rooting for


  7. says:

    Elijah Anderson does an excellent job profiling the norms and street life in one urban neighborhood This is a transformative book in that if you have never survived the streets of a violent drug infested crime ridden city you will learn so much from Anderson's portrayal where he transports you to the streets An excellent ethnography Anderson's writing style helps make this book a pleasure to read


  8. says:

    A very readable ethnographic account of life in some of the worst inner city neighborhoods in Philadelphia kind of an academic counterpart to David Simon's The Corner The book is ten years old now so some of the details feel a bit dated but the dilemmas it describes are still relevant and the problems have yet to be solved


  9. says:

    I didn't get this book it just felt like a whole lot of generalizations Ostensibly he did research but he doesn't use a lot of examples to back up what he's saying


  10. says:

    Besides being a little outdated this book is excellent Anderson exegeses of inner city black culture is outstanding and very helpful to anyone interesting in urban work