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18 October 2010

Night of the Living Dead Argument: Culture on the Rampage (wonkish)

(Sorry about the title. I'm on a bit of a zombie-movie kick these days.)

The NY Times has declared that 'Culture of Poverty' Makes a Comeback. Cue the nausea.

It's not so much culture per se that angers me but culture as a sacred cow. Those who argue for a strong program of culture are actually arguing that culture be put on a pedestal, that it be made untouchable. In effect, culture becomes an independent variable in the truest sense of the term, that is, disconnected from other causes or influences. I am not arguing that culture should never be a right hand variable (RHV), only that it is ignorant to argue that it should primarily be an RHV.
This surge of academic research also comes as the percentage of Americans living in poverty hit a 15-year high: one in seven, or 44 million.
As if this is an argument for culture? Quite to the contrary, this is an argument for structural changes (i.e. economic decline).

All that aside, the Times article itself is poorly written tripe that fails to capture the nuances of the academic debate.

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