Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America by Tim Wise
City Lights Books Open Media Series
San Francisco, CA
Writing about poverty isn’t the easiest task. We know from our own modest efforts around here that the topic can leave you feeling wound up and put down at the same time. Scale that to the level of social difficulty in the United States right now and you get an idea of the challenge before Tim Wise when he set out to produce Under the Affluence.
What this book unpacks is a layered and ridiculously well entrenched set of social conditions. A damaging racialization of US poverty is one of several really nasty things emanating from a set of mainstream social values that serve to uphold a very troubling level of inequality described and analyzed in detail. Much of the book is about the beat down job done on the behaviour of poor Americans and the adoration bestowed on the winners in the world’s largest economy for their behaviour.
Yes, the so-called one percent and their privileges appear early and often in Under the Affluence. So does the so-called culture of poverty which has given so much mileage to right-wing economics from the late seventies right through to the crash of 2008. It is nothing less than crazy, the levels of righteousness, resentment and sheer magic thinking that accompany that new class of super elites shaping our neighbour’s life. Wise looks for the reality and documents his positions like a scholar. Wise’s book is a lucid and commendable piece of work on the topic of social conditions and social attitudes. It’s powerful, as good a work as any reader in this area could wish for or humble blogger like ourselves hope to emulate.
Like we say when we find quality of thought and effort in a piece of writing on poverty and social difficulty: buy this book!