Essay about The Culture of Poverty: Oscar Lewis

1932 Words 8 Pages
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 …show more content…
According to Lewis, there are particular conditions which define individuals who live in the culture of poverty, one of which is dwelling in an environment where there are high rates of underemployment and unemployment within a cash economy. This is as a result of the failure of society “to provide social, political and economic organization on either a voluntary basis or by government imposition, for low income population.” (p.21) Persons living in poverty need the benefit of socio-economic programs which can help them to escape the culture. There also seemed to be a trend of anti-government sentiment and a general lack of respect for authority amongst persons within those who dwell in the culture of poverty. Though being poor is a symptom of the culture of poverty, it does not have to mean that an individual is enveloped by the culture. According to Lewis being poor and lacking resources, do not translate to being a member of the culture of poverty. He believes that such individuals have “high degree of social organization and a relatively integrated, satisfying and self sufficient culture.” (P23) There is the sense of wanting to do better and not being afraid to protest and stand up for themselves. They really just lack wealth; they do not lack a sense of having membership in society. David Harvey argues that both liberal and conservative thinkers have misinterpreted

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