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In the fifty years since it was published, The Other America has been established as a seminal work of sociology. This anniversary edition includes Michael Harrington’s essays on poverty in the 1970s and ’80s as well as a new introduction by Harrington’s biographer, Maurice Isserman. This illuminating, profoundly moving classic is still all too relevant for today’s America In the fifty years since it was published, The Other America has been established as a seminal work of sociology. This anniversary edition includes Michael Harrington’s essays on poverty in the 1970s and ’80s as well as a new introduction by Harrington’s biographer, Maurice Isserman. This illuminating, profoundly moving classic is still all too relevant for today’s America. When Michael Harrington’s masterpiece, The Other America, was first published in 1962, it was hailed as an explosive work and became a galvanizing force for the war on poverty. Harrington shed light on the lives of the poor—from farm to city—and the social forces that relegated them to their difficult situations. He was determined to make poverty in the United States visible and his observations and analyses have had a profound effect on our country, radically changing how we view the poor and the policies we employ to help them.


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In the fifty years since it was published, The Other America has been established as a seminal work of sociology. This anniversary edition includes Michael Harrington’s essays on poverty in the 1970s and ’80s as well as a new introduction by Harrington’s biographer, Maurice Isserman. This illuminating, profoundly moving classic is still all too relevant for today’s America In the fifty years since it was published, The Other America has been established as a seminal work of sociology. This anniversary edition includes Michael Harrington’s essays on poverty in the 1970s and ’80s as well as a new introduction by Harrington’s biographer, Maurice Isserman. This illuminating, profoundly moving classic is still all too relevant for today’s America. When Michael Harrington’s masterpiece, The Other America, was first published in 1962, it was hailed as an explosive work and became a galvanizing force for the war on poverty. Harrington shed light on the lives of the poor—from farm to city—and the social forces that relegated them to their difficult situations. He was determined to make poverty in the United States visible and his observations and analyses have had a profound effect on our country, radically changing how we view the poor and the policies we employ to help them.

30 review for The Other America: Poverty in the United States

  1. 4 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    In 1962, a small book was published to some acclaim by a political scientist named Michael Harrington. The book, entitled “The Other America: Poverty in the United States”, shocked the rather small audience that actually read the book with the premise that nearly one-fourth of the United States population was living at or below the poverty line. It was shocking to the reading audience of the time because a national dialogue about poverty did not even exist, outside academic circles of political s In 1962, a small book was published to some acclaim by a political scientist named Michael Harrington. The book, entitled “The Other America: Poverty in the United States”, shocked the rather small audience that actually read the book with the premise that nearly one-fourth of the United States population was living at or below the poverty line. It was shocking to the reading audience of the time because a national dialogue about poverty did not even exist, outside academic circles of political scientists and social scientists who actually studied poverty issues. Most, if not all, Americans believed that the U.S. was swimming in wealth and that Americans were not lacking in luxury and leisure. For roughly 75% of the population, that was true. Harrington’s book shocked the nation and quickly became a bestseller, especially after President John F. Kennedy, after reading the book, initiated a study on poverty to see if Harrington’s book had any validity. It did. The fact that the book is still being published and read today is extremely telling. The fact that very few of the problems talked about in the book have been rectified today, more than fifty years later, is very sad. It is, however, probably not all that surprising. Harrington had the hope that the more people knew about the problem, the greater the chance that things would be done to eradicate poverty. He honestly believed that true poverty would be reduced drastically by the 1990s and a thing of the past by the turn of the 21st century. Silly man. If anything, poverty has become a worse problem today than it ever was. Most Americans, sadly, accept it as one of those unsolvable problems, like pollution or drug abuse or terrorism. Many Americans, especially those on the political Right, if they think about it at all, view poverty as an annoyance: those living in poverty are nothing more than a drain on the system. They are nothing more than welfare queens, bums, and human blight on our city streets. While dated, with statistics that seem, even at the time it was published, conservative at best, “The Other America” is still an important book. Behind the numbers and studies cited, Harrington reveals a strong compassion for the poor, most of whom who have arrived in poverty through no fault of their own. Many of the impoverished are children. Harrington makes the case that there are different “groups” of the poor, hidden from view of the more affluent segment of American population because they have been purposely and systematically segregated from the middle to upper classes, for various reasons, and through various means. These groups are, according to Harrington: the rural poor, urban blacks, the mentally ill, senior citizens, and the self-imposed poor (alcoholics and drug abusers). While some of the demographics have changed in fifty years, the basic make-up of these groups haven't changed that much. It is probably unfair to say that no progress has been made on the issue of poverty. Some progress has been made, thankfully, but we still have a long way to go. For a country with so much wealth, it is unbelievable---and, frankly, unconscionable---that there are millions in this country that go without basic needs of food, shelter, and proper health care. Harrington’s book may be old but it is still apropos, powerfully felt, and worth reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tom Darrow

    One quote pretty much sums up the theme of this book... "America has the best dressed poverty in the World." Americans often don't think about poverty. They see the occasional bum on a street corner and assume that he must be a drunk or otherwise irresponsible. They never bother to think about the systematic nature of poverty and the causes of it. Nor do they think about the fact that the gap between the rich and poor is growing and more Americans are going into poverty than coming out. Harringto One quote pretty much sums up the theme of this book... "America has the best dressed poverty in the World." Americans often don't think about poverty. They see the occasional bum on a street corner and assume that he must be a drunk or otherwise irresponsible. They never bother to think about the systematic nature of poverty and the causes of it. Nor do they think about the fact that the gap between the rich and poor is growing and more Americans are going into poverty than coming out. Harrington dispells many of these American povery myths with clear research, personal stories and eloquent prose.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Entering Grinnell College with a year's credit already accumulated in high school, I enrolled in courses that were actually interesting, figuring requirements were secondary. A whole host of such classes were offered under the rubric of Social Science as special topics. The first I took was one on the welfare system of the U.S.A. taught by a former social worker who had just come to our school. If the Welfare class had a central text, it was Harrington's The Other America. But perhaps it was beca Entering Grinnell College with a year's credit already accumulated in high school, I enrolled in courses that were actually interesting, figuring requirements were secondary. A whole host of such classes were offered under the rubric of Social Science as special topics. The first I took was one on the welfare system of the U.S.A. taught by a former social worker who had just come to our school. If the Welfare class had a central text, it was Harrington's The Other America. But perhaps it was because I knew of Harrington from the Socialist Party that the book seemed so central. In any case, it was an eye-opener. I knew things were bad, I'd been through Benton Harbor, Michigan and Gary, Indiana countless times, but I didn't know they were that bad!--nor did I know that there were far more poor white people than black people--nor did I know that there had been so much good intention behind Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs which had been dissolved by the nationally and economically corrosive factor of the American invasions of Southeast Asia.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mason McCloskey

    This book was truly eye-opening to the poverty related problems present in our society. Although this book was written in 1962, it is astonishing how little has changed since then in regards to the improvement of the "other society" in America. This book provided powerful insight in the present problems, their cause, and how they can be fixed, which highlighted how simple a plan can seem on paper, yet implementing that plan into society requires a concern for the culture in the impoverished area This book was truly eye-opening to the poverty related problems present in our society. Although this book was written in 1962, it is astonishing how little has changed since then in regards to the improvement of the "other society" in America. This book provided powerful insight in the present problems, their cause, and how they can be fixed, which highlighted how simple a plan can seem on paper, yet implementing that plan into society requires a concern for the culture in the impoverished area. The reason this book only receives four stars is because they sometimes left problems open-ended without providing an adequate solution or dismissing issues with an over-simplified response. Overall, I highly recommend this book to whoever is interested in learning about one of the most ignored societies today.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    Michael Harrington's magnum opus on poverty in the United States says right on the cover that it is "the book that sparked the War on Poverty." And it did. Kennedy gave this book to his advisors and green-lighted a plan to eradicate poverty in America three days before he was killed. Lyndon Johnson referenced this book when he made the War of Poverty a reality. Clocking in at only 170 pages, this relatively short book delivered a powerful message for the poor. The closing lines of the book sum i Michael Harrington's magnum opus on poverty in the United States says right on the cover that it is "the book that sparked the War on Poverty." And it did. Kennedy gave this book to his advisors and green-lighted a plan to eradicate poverty in America three days before he was killed. Lyndon Johnson referenced this book when he made the War of Poverty a reality. Clocking in at only 170 pages, this relatively short book delivered a powerful message for the poor. The closing lines of the book sum it up well: "The means are at hand to fulfill the age-old dream: poverty can now be abolished. How long shall we ignore this underdeveloped nation in our midst? How long shall we look the other way while our fellow human beings suffer? How long?" How long, indeed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    So sad that we’ve made zero progress in the war on poverty. Almost 60 years since this book was written and affordable housing is a major issue still and homelessness seems to be on the rise.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    Michael Harrington (1928-1989) is best known for this book, published in 1962. He was an American democratic socialist, writer, political activist, professor of political science, radio commentator and founder of the Democratic Socialists of America. The Other America has become a classic in the social change world, that attention be directed at the poor in the U.S. at a time when “affluence” was the byword and the poor were marginalized. It was cutting edge for its time. Although Harrington uses Michael Harrington (1928-1989) is best known for this book, published in 1962. He was an American democratic socialist, writer, political activist, professor of political science, radio commentator and founder of the Democratic Socialists of America. The Other America has become a classic in the social change world, that attention be directed at the poor in the U.S. at a time when “affluence” was the byword and the poor were marginalized. It was cutting edge for its time. Although Harrington uses some statistics in the book, the vast majority is narrative and analysis. His notable beliefs about statistics are included in the Appendix, the final section of the book. This is interesting to read even taken away from the balance of the book. Combining the numbers with the words, Harrington paints a dismal view of poverty and the poor. There are lengthy discussions “of the twisted spirit within the culture of poverty.” Since the book is nearly 50 years old, the statistics are dated. In fact the federal government didn’t start keeping statistics on poverty until 1959. But the words are just as apt as they were when the book was published. He was a supporter of universal health care saying, “A comprehensive medical program, guaranteeing decent care to every American, would actually reduce the cost of caring for the aged.” He believed that if people had good health care in their early decades, they would have fewer problems as they aged. It took a few decades to get this one. Read the last 33 pages of the book if you ever have the chance. This is the summary chapter, The Two Nations, and the Appendix: Definitions. It can be found in Google books, by Googling 'the two nations michael harrington.' The book was reissued by Touchstone in 1997. In short, being poor is not one aspect of a person’s life in this country; it is his life. Taken as a whole, poverty is a culture. Taken on the family level, it has the same quality. These are people who lack education and skill, who have bad health, poor housing, low levels of aspiration and high levels of mental distress. They are, in the language of sociology, “multi problem” families. Each disability is more intense because it exists within a web of disabilities. And if one problem is solved, and the others are left constant, there is little gain. One might translate these facts into the moralistic language so dear to those who would condemn the poor for their faults. The other Americans are those who live at a level of life below moral choice, who are so submerged in their poverty that one cannot begin to talk about free choice. The point is not to make them wards of the state. Rather, society must help them before they can help themselves. Can you hear the mumbles, no, the shouts of “Bleeding heart liberal”? This is meant to be a pejorative in most cases. Harrington almost wears the label as a badge of honor, proof of his humanity and his awareness and sensitivity to the desolation of the problem of poverty and the lives of the poor. He did see the poor as victims. He cries out, “In a nation with a technology that could provide every citizen with a decent life, it is an outrage and a scandal that there should be such social misery.” He said this 50 years ago. And he kept saying it until his death in 1989 from cancer at the young age of 61. Michael Harrington wants to tell us, “The poor are not like everyone else. They are a different kind of people. They think and feel differently; they look upon a different America than the middle class looks upon. They . . . are the main victims of this society’s tension and conflict.” Reading this book you might think he invented President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Begun officially in 1964, the War on Poverty was an ambitious governmental effort to address the problem of persistent poverty in the United States. Over the next decade, the federal government—in conjunction with state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and grassroots groups—created a new institutional base for antipoverty and civil rights action and, in the process, highlighted growing racial and ideological tensions in American politics and society. Marked by moments of controversy and consensus, the War on Poverty defined a new era for American liberalism and added new layers to the American welfare state. Legislatively, the first two years were the most active. Between President Lyndon Johnson’s State of the Union address in 1964 and the liberal setbacks suffered in the congressional elections of 1966, the Johnson administration pushed through an unprecedented amount of antipoverty legislation. The Economic Opportunity Act (1964) provided the basis for the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the Job Corps, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Upward Bound, Head Start, Legal Services, the Neighborhood Youth Corps, the Community Action Program (CAP), the college Work-Study program, Neighborhood Development Centers, small business loan programs, rural programs, migrant worker programs, remedial education projects, local health care centers, and others. The antipoverty effort, however, did not stop there. It encompassed a range of Great Society legislation far broader than the Economic Opportunity Act alone. Other important measures with antipoverty functions included an $11 billion tax cut (Revenue Act of 1964), the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Food Stamp Act (1964), the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965), the Higher Education Act (1965), the Social Security amendments creating Medicare/Medicaid (1965), the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (1965), the Voting Rights Act (1965), the Model Cities Act (1966), the Fair Housing Act (1968), several job-training programs, and various Urban Renewal-related projects. Source: http://www.faculty.virginia.edu/sixti... Can you imagine that many things being accomplished by our U.S. Congress in 2011? Nixon followed Johnson into the White House and kept most of these programs running. I am looking forward to reading The Other American: The Untold Life of Michael Harrington and hopefully getting an idea about his views during the Great Society and War on Poverty era.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    As many others have pointed out, the most depressing aspect of this book is that so little has changed since it's publication in 1962. Despite the dozens of underfunded social programs, despite growing public consciousness of poverty, despite the good and bad times that have come and gone, the underclass of desperately poor individuals and families remains with us as much now as ever. The Other America is the book that inspired the War on Poverty and launched a thousand discussions in sociology As many others have pointed out, the most depressing aspect of this book is that so little has changed since it's publication in 1962. Despite the dozens of underfunded social programs, despite growing public consciousness of poverty, despite the good and bad times that have come and gone, the underclass of desperately poor individuals and families remains with us as much now as ever. The Other America is the book that inspired the War on Poverty and launched a thousand discussions in sociology classes about the cause and nature of poverty, and it is certainly a compelling read. Harrington, the great American socialist, painstakingly lays out the endemic poverty that secretly surrounds us, be it on the farm, in the city, with the young or the old. The book is full of figures, though they are mostly meaningless to modern readers, since nothing is adjusted for inflation. But the thing that seems most relevant is that Harrington reminds us that we are choosing not to see poverty. While many of us enjoy the most affluent standard of living in the world, here within our borders--in fact, within a few miles of wherever you happen to be sitting at the moment--there exists a world of crushing poverty. The Other America is defined by hopeless and pessismism, and by not seeing it, we ensure that the cycle of poverty will be repeated in a new generation. Harrington is hopeful in his book that when Americans become aware of poverty, they will be full of moral outrage and work to eradicate it. Well, that was 1962, and I don't know how long we have to wait to judge that that theory has been tested and shown to be deficient. No doubt this book is a call to conscience, but one that is not new. How long will the poor have to wait for their suffering to be recognized, Harrington asks at the end of the book. Maybe someday we will know that answer.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    I read this book in college more than 40 years ago. Harrington's exposure of poverty in Appalachia and other parts of the U.S was a stark revelation in the early 1960's. This book significantly influenced the anti poverty programs later in the decade. Ironically, Harrington at the time was the head of the United States Socialist Party. Thinking about the Other America inspired me many times during a 37 year career with the U.S. Department of Labor. I plan to include this book and its influence on I read this book in college more than 40 years ago. Harrington's exposure of poverty in Appalachia and other parts of the U.S was a stark revelation in the early 1960's. This book significantly influenced the anti poverty programs later in the decade. Ironically, Harrington at the time was the head of the United States Socialist Party. Thinking about the Other America inspired me many times during a 37 year career with the U.S. Department of Labor. I plan to include this book and its influence on my career during an upcoming retirement luncheon. A good portion of this book is available at http://books.google.com/books?id=sZDg...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Aman

    One would think that this book is would be outdated but its not. Even though it first published in 1968 it is very relevant to the present.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Gordon

    I read Harrington's book years ago and still remember it all this time later. Harrington is a man with heart, a 'democratic socialist' who was writing originally during the prosperity of the early 1960s which, in many ways, was much more prosperous than today but at the same time when deep poverty was holding in rural parts of the US and some urban areas too, including parts of Appalachia that had no running water or regular electricity. It's a short book, and an impassioned call for justice thr I read Harrington's book years ago and still remember it all this time later. Harrington is a man with heart, a 'democratic socialist' who was writing originally during the prosperity of the early 1960s which, in many ways, was much more prosperous than today but at the same time when deep poverty was holding in rural parts of the US and some urban areas too, including parts of Appalachia that had no running water or regular electricity. It's a short book, and an impassioned call for justice through national policy. But it has dated considerably and in some ways is an elitist view that is characteristic of much of the top-down social activism of the time, including the later War on Poverty and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. The prescription is for help from government and redistribution to correct economic imbalances, which are good things, to be sure. Empowering of poor people, and organising them, is not in this worldview and for all its sympathy, this is a book with little empathy for poor folk. Still, it has inspired many and its historical importance recommends a look through.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peacegal

    This obviously was not the lightest or easiest read, but I am glad I read it. It's easy to look at the publication date and dismiss THE OTHER AMERICA as outdated, but a closer look reveals just how applicable it is to new millennium problems. It is true, the lowest-paying, least stable jobs in America have changed. Garment and consumer product factories discovered they could move overseas and produce the same stuff with even lower wages and less pleasant conditions. This job sector in America ha This obviously was not the lightest or easiest read, but I am glad I read it. It's easy to look at the publication date and dismiss THE OTHER AMERICA as outdated, but a closer look reveals just how applicable it is to new millennium problems. It is true, the lowest-paying, least stable jobs in America have changed. Garment and consumer product factories discovered they could move overseas and produce the same stuff with even lower wages and less pleasant conditions. This job sector in America has become retail and food services jobs. The workers remain just as desperate. The section on rural poverty may surprise many modern readers, who assume industrialization of the agriculture industry is a new thing. In this book we read of small farmers whose livelihoods are crushed in the wake of "huge operators with factory-like farms." Modern foodies who idealize the mom-and-pop era of farming may be surprised to learn that Mom and Pop were struggling mightily, with many falling into uninhabitable poverty and being forced into city tenements.

  13. 4 out of 5

    P.J. Sullivan

    One of the most influential nonfiction books of the twentieth century. Exposes an invisible "culture" of poverty in the United States and analyzes its nature and causes. Harrington argues that an economic underclass of forty to fifty million poor Americans is so excluded from America's affluent society as to constitute “a separate culture, another nation, with its own way of life.” That the poor are "not simply neglected and forgotten. . . . What is much worse, they are not seen.” They need more One of the most influential nonfiction books of the twentieth century. Exposes an invisible "culture" of poverty in the United States and analyzes its nature and causes. Harrington argues that an economic underclass of forty to fifty million poor Americans is so excluded from America's affluent society as to constitute “a separate culture, another nation, with its own way of life.” That the poor are "not simply neglected and forgotten. . . . What is much worse, they are not seen.” They need more than money or jobs, as they are mired in disabilities within webs of disabilities. He calls for a broad program of remedial action, a "comprehensive assault on poverty." “Society must help them before they can help themselves.” A call to action on a national scale, it resulted in the War on Poverty of the sixties, maybe even Medicare and Medicaid. Sad to say, this book is not outdated today.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maia

    It took me a long time to get thru this book, and even more to review it here--the thing is, the writing isn't old-fashioned or dodgy but for a progressive, bleeding-heart liberal like me--even as an expat in Europe--the book's contents got way, way too depressing. Because so little has changed? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the worst is that A LOT has changed, actually, from the 50s and early 60s days of this book, only barring certain social transformations (women, gays) politically most of the chan It took me a long time to get thru this book, and even more to review it here--the thing is, the writing isn't old-fashioned or dodgy but for a progressive, bleeding-heart liberal like me--even as an expat in Europe--the book's contents got way, way too depressing. Because so little has changed? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the worst is that A LOT has changed, actually, from the 50s and early 60s days of this book, only barring certain social transformations (women, gays) politically most of the changes are not for the better and 'the other America' is alive and well and kicking vehemently today.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Nichols

    The discovery that there were still large pockets of poverty in the United States in the early 1960s supposedly came as a shock to the American people - that is, to those of them that lived in the suburbs - and led semi-directly to the War on Poverty, which was won (to a point) by the elderly. Incidentally, the second book that appeared when I searched for this volume on Goodreads was Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative. One day I will understand the connection between the two books, but today The discovery that there were still large pockets of poverty in the United States in the early 1960s supposedly came as a shock to the American people - that is, to those of them that lived in the suburbs - and led semi-directly to the War on Poverty, which was won (to a point) by the elderly. Incidentally, the second book that appeared when I searched for this volume on Goodreads was Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative. One day I will understand the connection between the two books, but today is not the day.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I read the 1962 / 1969 edition which only had 191 pages. Very enlightening. Most of it fits with today as well. There is one point towards the end of the book(pg 164) which definitely sounds like now. He talks about the recession of Spring 1961. Even though the business indicators were showing we were improving, unemployment still remained high. Don't go by what you currently know. Read up on the past. It is a good indicator as to how we progressed / where we are headed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    "For until these facts shame us, until they stir us to action, the other America will continue to exist, a monstrous example of needless suffering in the most advanced society in the world." And so it goes.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jane De vries

    Read it in college. So long ago, I can't comment.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    This book is an intellectually dishonest work of exploitation.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    This is a depressing read because it's nearly 60 years old and yet so much of it is still true. LBJ's War on Poverty did lessen poverty, especially amongst the elderly. But too many of us believe in Reagan's quip that "we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won"--cutting benefits and giving up. Harrington's book still articulates the problems with conservative thinking on poverty, and his analyses of rural areas and black poverty still have a great deal of truth today.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steve Hahn

    When published this book had a huge impact on policy. Guiding force for pres Johnson’s war on poverty. But not much has changed from the time this book was written other than the 1 percent have even more. The levels of poverty aren’t much different and the problems of the poor remain the same. Much of this book could be written today. There is a better safety net structure for the elderly poor. Other than that we don’t seem to have put in an effort to really tackle the issues of the poor and hom When published this book had a huge impact on policy. Guiding force for pres Johnson’s war on poverty. But not much has changed from the time this book was written other than the 1 percent have even more. The levels of poverty aren’t much different and the problems of the poor remain the same. Much of this book could be written today. There is a better safety net structure for the elderly poor. Other than that we don’t seem to have put in an effort to really tackle the issues of the poor and homeless.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peggy Euteneier

    Subtitle: Poverty in the United States. First published in 1962, then reissued in 1981 with chapters on poverty in the 70's and in the 80's. It is absolutely stunning (and heartbreaking) how relevant this book is to the U.S. we see today! A few quotes: "... there are enough poor people in the United States to constitute a subculture of misery, but not enough of them to challenge the conscience and the imagination of the nation." "At precisely that moment in history where for the first time a peo Subtitle: Poverty in the United States. First published in 1962, then reissued in 1981 with chapters on poverty in the 70's and in the 80's. It is absolutely stunning (and heartbreaking) how relevant this book is to the U.S. we see today! A few quotes: "... there are enough poor people in the United States to constitute a subculture of misery, but not enough of them to challenge the conscience and the imagination of the nation." "At precisely that moment in history where for the first time a people have the material ability to end poverty, they lack the will to do so. ... The consciences of the well-off are the victims of affluence; the lives of the poor are the victims of a physical and spiritual misery." "It is a noble sentiment to argue that private moral responsibility expressing itself through charitable contributions should be the main instrument of attacking poverty. The only problem is that such an approach does not work." "... the moral and political energy of Washington, as well as tens of billions of dollars, were not channeled into the right war at home (Johnson's War on Poverty) but into the wrong war in Southeast Asia." We have come full circle with our current unfunded wars. Harrington argues that it is unconscionable for a nation as affluent as the US to have an "other America" with millions of poor. We have not improved those numbers since he wrote in 1962, much to our shame.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leif Kurth

    This book, sadly, could have been written last week, with dates changed, and no one would be the wiser. We haven't done a particularly good job of addressing this issue and it is primarily because of the ways in which conservative's have framed the argument. One phrase in particular has been the basis for the argument we've been listening to for decades, "culture of poverty". Harrington's choice of the phrase "culture of poverty" was taken out of context by conservative politicians hoping to gai This book, sadly, could have been written last week, with dates changed, and no one would be the wiser. We haven't done a particularly good job of addressing this issue and it is primarily because of the ways in which conservative's have framed the argument. One phrase in particular has been the basis for the argument we've been listening to for decades, "culture of poverty". Harrington's choice of the phrase "culture of poverty" was taken out of context by conservative politicians hoping to gain some credibility in their fight against social welfare programs. Since that happened, we've witnessed a hardening, on the political right, against any and all forms of support. Poverty is still the greatest economic depressor we are fighting against. People who can't afford anything over and above the bare necessities can't be expected to stimulate economies via spending. This book is brilliant for many reasons but chiefly among them is this, Harrington treats the folks experiencing life's harshest realities as regular people who are experiencing poverty, not poor people. His analysis on causes and effects is spot-on and many of his policy ideas were bold, and workable, then, as well as now.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura Brose

    A book describing poverty and marginalized groups in the 1960s. Dated (the Bowery is no longer a place with inexpensive "flophouses" for "bums") but carries a lesson for society nonetheless. My late father owned the original paperback edition which I had to glue back together after reading, and of it, he said, the reason the Great Society (a number of social welfare programs on a national scale) was instituted in the 1960s was not because the monetary and political elites all of a sudden decided A book describing poverty and marginalized groups in the 1960s. Dated (the Bowery is no longer a place with inexpensive "flophouses" for "bums") but carries a lesson for society nonetheless. My late father owned the original paperback edition which I had to glue back together after reading, and of it, he said, the reason the Great Society (a number of social welfare programs on a national scale) was instituted in the 1960s was not because the monetary and political elites all of a sudden decided that they liked the lower classes, but that so many were suffering from the physical effects of extreme poverty and disease that they were failing their draft physicals as the Vietnam War ramped up and expanded.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Regier

    I read this alongside The Dream and the Nightmare by Myron Magnet as a part of a project in comparing and contrasting the different perspectives on poverty and the underclass. This book propels a certain school of thought that I just cannot get on board with. Where Myron Magnet employs the theory that the culture of poverty is self-imposed and is therefore somewhat escapable, Harrington seems to merely suggest that the more federal money we throw at poverty, the better the situation will get—whe I read this alongside The Dream and the Nightmare by Myron Magnet as a part of a project in comparing and contrasting the different perspectives on poverty and the underclass. This book propels a certain school of thought that I just cannot get on board with. Where Myron Magnet employs the theory that the culture of poverty is self-imposed and is therefore somewhat escapable, Harrington seems to merely suggest that the more federal money we throw at poverty, the better the situation will get—when in fact this is arguably the REASON the culture of poverty exists as it does today. Overall way too anecdotal, and the general leftist agenda is a rather miserable barrier informing every detail of the book. It was difficult to plow through this dreary read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Olderworker

    This book is amazingly current, given that it was written 50 years ago. The same problems existed then as now; jobs were lost due to factory closings, "braceros" (illegal Mexican immigrants) were blamed for lowering wages of migrant workers, "average" Americans were blind to poverty, people who owned houses or land had trouble migrating to areas with better jobs, etc. I think I've read all these points recently in the New York Times or other publications. I'm only on page 57, so have a way to go This book is amazingly current, given that it was written 50 years ago. The same problems existed then as now; jobs were lost due to factory closings, "braceros" (illegal Mexican immigrants) were blamed for lowering wages of migrant workers, "average" Americans were blind to poverty, people who owned houses or land had trouble migrating to areas with better jobs, etc. I think I've read all these points recently in the New York Times or other publications. I'm only on page 57, so have a way to go.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Published originally in 1959, this book was a call to arms regarding this country's policies regarding the poor and poverty in general. I found the tone of the book to be interesting - I don't know that righteous indignation plays well today. And sadly, many of the fears outlined in the book have indeed come to bear, but there has been some progress. Unless there is a serious focus on poverty at all levels of government and more importantly, society, I fear we aren't going to end it once and for Published originally in 1959, this book was a call to arms regarding this country's policies regarding the poor and poverty in general. I found the tone of the book to be interesting - I don't know that righteous indignation plays well today. And sadly, many of the fears outlined in the book have indeed come to bear, but there has been some progress. Unless there is a serious focus on poverty at all levels of government and more importantly, society, I fear we aren't going to end it once and for all.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Louis

    Michael Harrington’s The Other America: Poverty In The United States provides an insightful look on the darker corners of the American economy and those who inhabit it. Harrington offers an intriguing and provocative assessment of what it really means to be poor in the United States and why previous efforts have failed. On balance, his predictions for the future are fairly solid, although his predictions on cities have not entirely come to fruition—if anything cities are on the rise again it is Michael Harrington’s The Other America: Poverty In The United States provides an insightful look on the darker corners of the American economy and those who inhabit it. Harrington offers an intriguing and provocative assessment of what it really means to be poor in the United States and why previous efforts have failed. On balance, his predictions for the future are fairly solid, although his predictions on cities have not entirely come to fruition—if anything cities are on the rise again it is the outlying areas that are being hollowed out.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Akin

    First published in 1962, Michael Harrington’s The Other America is a stark and brutally honest portrayal of endemic poverty amidst rising prosperity in post-WWII America. Almost 60 years on, this book still resonates, as many of the ills described still linger, and in fact have morphed into different struggles with the rise of drug epidemics and migrant crises. This was the book that provided the spark for LBJ’s War on Poverty. Little did we know it would be a never-ending war with no relief in si First published in 1962, Michael Harrington’s The Other America is a stark and brutally honest portrayal of endemic poverty amidst rising prosperity in post-WWII America. Almost 60 years on, this book still resonates, as many of the ills described still linger, and in fact have morphed into different struggles with the rise of drug epidemics and migrant crises. This was the book that provided the spark for LBJ’s War on Poverty. Little did we know it would be a never-ending war with no relief in sight.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    I first read this book forty years or so ago; this version was updated by the author in 1969 and 1981. Much of the discussion of entrenched poverty is still relevant and accurate today; the failure of the country to comprehensively address the issue not only remains a shameful reproach to our wealthy society, but, as the gap between rich and poor only increases over the decades, and the likelihood of a federal solution decreases, the book is a reminder of how far we are from our ideals.

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