For more than 40 years, social scientists investigating the causes of poverty have tended to treat cultural explanations like Lord Voldemort: That Which Must Not Be Named. The reticence was a legacy of the ugly battles that erupted after Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant labor secretary in the Johnson administration, introduced the idea of a â€?culture of povertyâ€? to the public in a startling 1965 report. Although Moynihan didnâ€™t coin the phrase (that distinction belongs to the anthropologist Oscar Lewis), his description of the urban black family as caught in an inescapable â€?tangle of pathologyâ€? of unmarried mothers and welfare dependency was seen as attributing self-perpetuating moral deficiencies to black people, as if blaming them for their own misfortune.
Moynihanâ€™s analysis never lost its appeal to conservative thinkers, whose arguments ultimately succeeded when President Bill Clinton signed a bill in 1996 â€?ending welfare as we know it.â€? But in the overwhelmingly liberal ranks of academic sociology and anthropology the word â€?cultureâ€? became a live grenade, and the idea that attitudes and behavior patterns kept people poor was shunned.
Now, after decades of silence, these scholars are speaking openly about you-know-what, conceding that culture and persistent poverty are enmeshed. â€?Weâ€™ve finally reached the stage where people arenâ€™t afraid of being politically incorrect,â€? said Douglas S. Massey, a sociologist at Princeton who has argued that Moynihan was unfairly maligned.Is that pathetic, or what?
Of course nurture plays a role in poverty.
It's now 2010, not 1965 anymore, so the discussion should be over the magnitude of the role of nature, not over whether nurture is important.
This article is part of the battle between the the New Centrists against the Aging Leftists. The New Centrists have much of the money (e.g., Gates Foundation billions), so they'll probably win.
So, it's worth understanding what motivates the New Centrists. Besides the billionaires, what about the foot soldiers?
A big part of this New Centrist obsession (e.g., Waiting for "Superman") with changing the culture of NAMs is motivated by job-seeking on the part of Nice White People. The private sector, with its stock options, used to be cool, but now private sector jobs are in short supply. The public sector, with its jobs with defined benefit pensions and health insurance, is where it's at in 2010. Moreover, violence is down among NAMs, so a lot of Nice White People are thinking they'd like one of those lifetime tenure jobs with benefits and and a pension reforming NAM children. Of course, people already have those jobs, so the people who don't have them are raising a stink about how the people who do have them are discriminating against NAMs by not turning them into Nice White People and thus should be fired ... and replaced by a new set of Nice White People.