Our achievement ideology is based on the idea that the U.S. is full of opportunity and anyone can accomplish success in our society if they work hard enough. Many grow up thinking education is the ladder that will allow for this social mobility and all you have to do is be willing to work hard enough to earn it. But what about children who grow up thinking differently? Why do some strive for high paying careers while others refuse school and are seemingly ok with staying working class? MacLeod challenges the notion that America is the land of opportunity with research he conducted while in college. He uses the research of several reproduction theorists to show that schools not only are not great equalizers, as most think, but actually reinforce social inequality.
Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, both Marxists, believe the American education system builds off of and reinforces the structure of class relations in the U.S. by training the wealthy to take up space at the top of the economy while conditioning the poor to accept their status. Their “correspondence principle” draws the comparison between the social relations of production and personal interaction in schools. They argue that strong structural similarities can be seen in following: The organization of power and authority in the school and in the workplace The student’s lack of control of curriculum and the worker’s lack of control of the content of his or her job The role of grades and other rewards in school and the role of wages in the workplace as extrinsic motivational systems Competition among students and the specialization of academic subjects and competition among workers and the fragmented nature of jobs.
They argue this theory with how schools vary in instruction based on their location. Schools serving low-income working class neighborhoods are emphasize rules and behavioral control (similar to what we have discussed in the Gilbert book about social mobility and class structure) while schools serving suburban neighborhoods favor more student participation and less direct supervision. By reinforcing social norms, schools socialize students to occupy the same position in class structure as their parents. Pierre Bourdieu believed that cultural capital was passed down from generation to generation. His four main points are: Each social class has distinct cultural capital
Schools systemically valorize upper-class cultural capital while depreciating lower class capital The job market reinforces the superior academic credentials earned mainly by the upper classes Schools legitimize the process by converting social hierarchies to academic ones Basil Bernstein uses language patterns to link micro and macro sociological issues. Bernstein argues that one’s class will determine a distinct form of speech through family socialization. This results in working class children being surrounded by a restricted code of linguistics while middle class children use more elaborate codes. Bernstein’s linguistic codes refer to the underlying regulative principles that govern the selection and combination of different syntactic and lexical constructions that are derived from social relations and roles within families.
Shirley Brice Heath also focuses on linguistic patterns but uses race to explain her theory that black working class children are not socialized at home to use the language patterns used in school which hurts them academically. White working class children fare better as they develop many of the cognitive and linguistic skills required in school. Paul Willis’s research determined that students’ background, location, local job market and educational attainment influence their job choice. Henry Giroux developed a resistance theory that suggests working class subordination is not a reaction to the logic of capitalist rationality but that cultural patterns draw on elements of working class culture in a creative way.
MacLeod dives into the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers, two groups of youth that reside in Clarendon Heights. The Hallway Hangers are a group of mostly white boys (with the exception of 2) who are involved in criminal activity (robbery, drug dealing) drink, smoke marijuana and mostly do not favor school with only of the boys in the group having graduated high school. Despite they criminal activity, most of the Hallway Hangers desire to make enough money to move their families out of the projects. The Brothers are a group of mostly black boys (with the exception of one) who so not smoke, drink regularly, and value education as they all attend high school. Though they are merely a peer group and not their own subculture as they value academics and athletics and are not as bothered by the stigma of living in the projects. Describing the differences in the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers, the MacLeod points out that the Hallway Hangers rarely have parental supervision, many have lived in public housing for several years, many have absent fathers, and the educational attainment of their families is very low.
The Brothers on the other hand have more parents and siblings who graduated high school and attended at least some college, more have father figures living in the house, and their average time living in Clarendon Heights is less than the Hallway Hangers. The Hallway Hangers view their own job experiences and those of their family members as foreshadowing for their own future jobs and contribute to an entrenched cynicism. They believe their preferences will have no bearing on the work they will actually end up doing. To this group, work is given and it is all essentially the same: boring and unrewarding. The Brothers, however, value careers and are more optimistic about their futures. They see education as their ticket out of the projects and into a better future. The Brothers attribute lack of success on to personal inadequacy whereas the Hallway Hangers see lack of opportunity as just the way American works.
Chapter 1-5 QUESTIONS:
1) Do you agree that our educational system reinforces America’s class structure? Which social reproduction theorist do you agree or disagree with most? 2) What do you think needs to change in order for our educational system to function properly and not reinforce class structures? 3) Why do you think our educational system has remained the same with no major structural changes for so long despite the fact there is plenty of evidence to suggest it is not working? 4) On page 42 the author says that racism in lower-class communities can be attributed to competition for scarce resources and economic opportunities. Do you think there is some value in this statement?
5) How do you think the differences in the two groups’ (Hallway Hangers and the Brothers) lifestyle and background shape their lives and impact their future decision? 6) Why does the mentality of work differ so much between the two groups? Why do you think they have different views on social mobility? 7) Do you agree with the Brothers that the U.S. is an open society in which everyone can attain success and failure to do so is due to one’s own failure to work hard enough or do you agree with the Hallway Hangers and think one is destined to follow in the footsteps of their family? How does race relate to all of this?
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Chapters 6-8 Summary:
Lincoln High School (LHS) is a predominantly middle-class institution with a large student population segregated into several subprograms of study that are tracked both internally and in relation to one another. (88) MacLeod’s primary interest lies with the lower-rung programs into which the educational system places most Hallway Hangers and Brothers: the Occupational Education Program, the Building Trades and Services Program, the Enterprise Co-Op, and the Adjustment Class. Following an interracial, fatal stabbing, LHS augmented its staffing of black instructors, which in turn led to accusations of favoritism by white students, summarized by Slick as the view that now “the white kid’s always wrong”. (89, 96) The high school is also a site for the regular demonstration of disciplinary preoccupations, both overt and subtle in its exercise. (98) Of note in this regard is the ubiquitous promotion of an achievement ideology (the “worth of schooling”) within its halls as reward for good behavior predicated on the efficacy of schooling and equality of opportunity (98-9).
The achievement ideology establishes that individual merit and achievement are fair and equitable sources of social inequality without resorting to coercive means to make the point (113). In doing so, social cohesion is maintained through legitimation of the entire class order and persuasion of individuals so classed to accept their positions within the hierarchy. (114) MacLeod argues that, when operating unhindered, ideological legitimation of this kind leads those of low class to self-blame, internalization of personal failure, willing acceptance of class standing, and an inability to form broad social critiques (114). Simply put, those of low class are ideologically subjugated into a state of low self-esteem. The notoriety of LHS, though, derives from how school officials refrain from interceding in the social reproduction of class, accepting it as a fact of life, and exacerbating extant classed aspirational differences. (116) For example, counselors transform the vague preferences of eighth graders for manual labor or to remain alongside peers into a definite commitment by enrolling them in the Occupational Education Program and slyly coercing them to stick it out afterwards. (89, 116-7) This stable course of studies, matched by earnest investment, mediocre academic success, and involvement with extracurricular activities characterize the Brothers, who resemble “typical high school students”. (92)
For the Hallway Hangers, unruly behavior, boredom with classwork, and the like lead them either out of school altogether or into the Adjustment Class, where they come to respect Jimmy Sullivan, the streetwise and financially independent instructor, and appreciate the flexible atmosphere and light workload. In the words of Frankie, “if you do your work [there], you can do whatever [you like]”. (94) MacLeod understands the Brothers, who unconditionally buy into the achievement ideology, commit themselves, and yet struggle to obtain decent grades, as proxies for the problem of the “educability” of the lower classes. (127, 100) Rejecting cultural deprivation theories, explanations that treat these difficulties as the product of working class family life, as inconclusive and prone to victim-blaming, MacLeod wishes to focus on the operations of LHS itself, for its standards of achievement determine whether to judge a student deficient (101).
These definitions are set by the dominant social classes to reward “appropriate cultural capital” in the classroom and enforce class-linked educational gains. Instructional expectations, the constitution of valid knowledge, teacher-student interaction, and program tracking each contribute in turn. (101) The Brothers, presently oblivious to these operations, attribute their shortcomings in school to personal inadequacy, lowering their self-esteem as a result. (102) Ironically, the instructors who educationally devalue the Brothers also serve as role models for their aspirations, after whom the Brothers pattern themselves in the process of “anticipatory socialization”. (111) MacLeod suggests that the sheltered work experiences of the Brothers to date, with the exception of Juan, have merely postponed realization of the achievement ideology as a veil obscuring their objective life chances. (127) This potential to “cool out” in the future, however, is offset in part by a social legitimation so entrenched in the Brothers that even the “controlled mobility” of sporadic success encourages further self-reproach among those who come up short. (127-8)
The manifest disaffection and lack of discipline toward LHS among the Hallway Hangers possesses an underlying logic that challenges the value of education through rejection of both the achievement ideology and schooling itself. Its members, based on life experience already informing them that jobs with little educational need lie ahead, rationally foresee barriers to social advancement unaccounted for by the achievement ideology (103). They engage in a calculus of costs and benefits within the social world of the street, where the “name of the game is money”. (107) The costs of obedience, deferred income, disrespect, and lowered self-esteem that schooling represents are rarely, if ever, offset by its benefits in terms of immediate financial success in the face of an uncertain future. (107, 109) In order to minimize such costs, the Hallway Hangers drop out, fall into a minimal course of study, or adopt a general attitude of detachment from education. (108) Thus, the subculture of the Hallway Hangers shields its members against judgments of failure through withdrawal from activities potentially harmful to their self-esteem and by providing a new context within which to foster self-respect through the provisioning of alternative criteria for success (118).
Yet, the protection afforded to the Hallway Hangers is partial at best, for within American society one cannot fully escape contact with dominant cultural ideals at work, school, or in public. (119) Moreover, MacLeod finds that the group does not function solely to provide solace, for the Hallway Hangers espouse values that are far from defensive in nature. (118) Beyond inversion of conventional mores where bad is good lies a communitarian solidarity that speaks out against the individualism so appreciated in America. (119, 123) In this climate individual interests, particularly the possession of high aspirations for oneself, erode the loyalties that bond one member to the next. Says Jinx of this state of affairs, “if we can’t make it together, fuck it” (120). Despite the recognition of external forces limiting their options to get ahead, the Hallway Hangers often express ambivalence in whether to assign blame to structural factors or to themselves when confronting failure (121). Their renting of the fabric of ideology is incomplete insofar as they continue to accept its disparagement of the lower classes to which they belong. Blinded by racism, alleging that the rise of blacks has worsened their own situation, the Hallway Hangers are unable to level comprehensive charges against the social order (122).
The employment of reverse racial discrimination as an explanation for misfortune pardons both their actions and society at large. (123) In the opinion of MacLeod, the “fundamental incongruity” between the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers rests with the acceptance or rejection of the achievement ideology (129). Yet, its precepts run counter to the lived experience of both groups, so then what accounts for this divergence? MacLeod points to race as decisive, arguing that the ethnic separation of the two groups is far from coincidental. The Hallway Hangers are compelled to reject the achievement ideology because they are white. They cannot point to racial discrimination as an alternate cause for their class position, and so acceptance would be tantamount to indicting themselves and their families as unfit to compete socially. The Brothers can conform to the principles of the achievement ideology because they are black.
They can not only attribute their lack of privilege to racial prejudice, but also excuse their parents’ educational and occupational faults (despite clear evidence of effort) through belief that race relations have dramatically improved, however imperfect they remain. (130-1) Holding low aspirations betrays the intergenerational gains of blacks. (131) Certainly, MacLeod’s stance is not that divergence between the two peer groups is simply and strictly racialized. The Brothers are also buoyed by a sense of collective upward social trajectory stemming from an abbreviated tenancy in Clarendon Heights that for many represents a step up (from the South, from the Caribbean), rather than a step down. (132) Oppositional definition of one group to the other also promotes acceptance of the achievement ideology among the Brothers, whose disassociation from the hostility of the resident Hallway Hangers pushes them toward conventionalism. Objectively, MacLeod observes, this antagonism between groups favors the Brothers in the job market, for it only makes sense to conform when another group, the Hallway Hangers, no longer chooses to compete for employment under conditions of scarcity. (132) MacLeod concludes Part I by revisiting the social reproduction theories from Chapter 2 in order to determine their explanatory fit with the findings of his ethnographic fieldwork.
Given that similar circumstances produce two divergent paths that frame the social reproduction of class, MacLeod readily discharges economic determinist models as too mechanistic to account for the open-ended, though not necessarily positive, responses to structural and ideological factors he has uncovered. (138) Theories of unfettered cultural autonomy are also dismissed, for MacLeod finds due consideration of structural constraints on occupational outcomes lacking in them. (139) Instead, MacLeod believes that social reproduction must be understood through investigation of the interface between cultural and structural forces, where the two interpenetrate one another. As mentioned earlier in Ain’t No Makin’ It, the bridging concept in his analysis is aspiration, linked in MacLeod’s work to the class-based dispositions Bourdieu locates within the habitus (139). However, dissatisfied with its original formulation, which forms a closed loop between structure and agency, MacLeod draws upon Bourdieu’s own ethnographic accounts to enrich habitus as a theoretical tool.
His favored interpretation is flexible both in its accommodation of social interaction and in the dynamic interplay of mediating elements within the habitus that permit its periodic restructuring. (140) “Working upward from ethnography to analysis”, starting as he does with peer cultures, MacLeod holds that qualitative fieldwork leads researchers to discover such mediating factors on the cultural level. (149) Even though pre-existing structural forces circumscribe individual opportunity, limits that are certainly internalized, MacLeod stresses in his writing that the process is exposed to subjective influence through which people “wrest meaning out of the flux of their lives”(141). From this perspective, then, sociologists may retain the autonomy of subjective situational interpretation while still placing them as responses to the objective limitations of social class. (142)
Although what interests MacLeod most in the present study is “the way ethnicity mediates the limitations of class”, he demonstrates the facility of his approach through consideration of individuals that differ from his subjects along one dimension of the habitus. Drawing upon the ethnographic work of Jane Rosegrant and Anne Campbell, MacLeod discusses the limitations patriarchy places upon disadvantaged women, with respect to mothering as a route to social acceptance and the inability of girls to form subcultural alternatives to status formation, respectively. (144-5) Recognizing that the Brothers are unrepresentative of impoverished black men on the whole, he also dissects how project youths lack the “ambiance of improved life chances” that propel the Brothers to embrace conformity. (146)
MacLeod then turns to demonstrate how his theoretical position can make sense not only of groups, but of particular individuals as well. Points of meaningful divergence emerge between half-brothers Boo-Boo and Derek with respect to grammar school peer group interactions and, in the case of Billy, serve to reorient his life course in response to personal tragedies. Unsurprisingly, Part I ends on a downbeat. MacLeod summarizes the situations of the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers by observing that poor whites and blacks have no one to look down upon, so they turn on each other in plain view of others who think of them only as “fucking animals” (152).
Chapters 6-8 Questions:
1. Student tracking is presented as pervasive on many levels at Lincoln High School, such as when counselors assign to each Occupational Education student his/her major “on the basis of interest, aptitude, and behavior” (p. 85). How might class-based perceptions and institutional standards shape these qualitative evaluations? How do decisions reached on these merits exacerbate existing differences in occupational aspirations among students? 2. Given the centrality of race to MacLeod’s understanding of the attitudinal differences between the Hangers and Brothers, is his portrayal of racial tension at Lincoln High School sufficiently detailed? How might you complete his account? 3. MacLeod states that the Hangers’ “approach to school assuredly is not based on a rational cost-benefit analysis”. (p. 108) Do you agree with his assessment? What does MacLeod intend to communicate about what constitutes rationality in this context? 4. What factors combine to inhibit the Hangers’ oppositional subculture and its “alternative criteria for success” from achieving “radical significance”, as defined by Henry Giroux? (p. 119, 21)
5. MacLeod establishes a strong link between ideological domination and personal estimation of worth as the social legitimation of inequality unfolds. When it functions smoothly, low-class individuals internalize failure, producing low self-esteem (p. 115). What are the strengths and weaknesses of this model of legitimation as a process? Can you think of alternate mechanisms by which the process might operate among the lower classes of American society? 6. Among the constituent factors MacLeod considers with respect to the habitus is neighborhood social ecology. (p. 140) He further argues that changing even a single mediating element of the habitus can “mold a different outcome” for individuals (p. 149).
How might the dispositions of impoverished youth such as the Hangers and Brothers differ were they instead located in either the regional South or a rural setting? Do you think resulting differences would produce outcomes distinct from those presented in Ain’t No Makin’ It? 7. MacLeod conducted the fieldwork presented in Part I during the 1980s. In your estimation, how well does his analysis of race as a mediator of classed perceptions among disadvantaged youth hold up thirty years later? Among Blacks, does the “ambiance of ascension” remain as vital today? (p. 133) 8. Given what we know of the particular circumstantial limitations confronting the youth of Clarendon Heights, what structural remedies might you suggest to improve their life chances? Would your proposals differ in approach to the Brothers and Hangers?
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Chapter 9: The Hallway Hangers: Dealing in Despair
In 1991, MacLeod went back to Clarendon Heights to look at the achievements of Hallway Hangers and the Brothers who had different expectations and aspirations when they were teenagers. He discovered that members of both groups are struggling to find stable employment and both failed to get themselves out of the poverty. MacLeod realized that the dynamic of the neighborhood and its surroundings have changed as blacks took over doorway #13. As anticipated, MacLeod re-interviews with members of the Hallway Hangers revealed that they don’t have any career of family stabilities. Most of the Hangers are working hourly waged dead-end jobs with very limited opportunities for advancements. On the personal level, they are still alcoholics, drug addict, racists, criminals, and treat women like objects. Following the path of their parents, members of the Hangers are having no respect for family life and romantic relationships. Most of the Hangers don’t have steady relationships and treat their women as objects. As a result of such attitudes, some Hangers are fathers to children that they hardly see and care for. Not to mention the issue of child support and the neglect of the importance of being a role model in their children’s lives.
How could they be in their children’s lives if they are economically devastated? Looking at their career path, Hangers’ job history they have been holding unstable “Shitty” with small firms, which have a high chance of failure and downward mobility. Although they realize the importance of having union jobs or at least jobs with benefits they claims that the current politics are favoring black and that limited their opportunity in the labor marker. Also, the Hallways partly hanged their career failure on their skin. They claimed that race policies such as Affirmative Action provided blacks with better opportunities in the job market. “Well I look today, and if anyone should have a chance to make it, it’s fuckin’, and its black people. They got a chance to make it. Cuz there’s fucking quotas to be filled.” MacLeod explained the Hangers’ failure to keep steady employment to their background and the use of their social network “Informal networking”.
As a result, they were hardly able to get any unionized or stable jobs. Also, members of the Hangers revealed the issue of class control of the job market and how the middle class youths with their privileged background, have access to superior social networks and hence better jobs. Under such social issues and material demands, the Hangers supplemented their income using the drug market where they believe they came make more money without out the pressure of being closely supervised and micro-managed. Even the relationship between members of the Hangers themselves are lost and the notion of being tied together for even is lost to the survival struggle of the late discovery of the need to change to and worry only about their own problems individually. One of reasons to such break through their relationships is the life of the neighborhood and the issue of gentrification inside and around Clarendon Heights.
Chapter 10: The Brothers: Dreams Deferred
In this chapter, MacLeod, was surprised to find members of the Brothers who hoped to be on their way to middle class by 1990s are similarity struggling in the job market just like the Hangers regardless of their educational attainment. When they were teenagers, the Brothers had high expectations and aspiration believing that school would provide them better life than their ancestors, their life did not go as they hoped. Although, the Brothers held educational levels between high school diploma and some college they are career struggling just like the Hangers. But, they did not lose hope for better future and are trying to achieve their teenage goals. Facing reality, the brothers are aware of their social class and the political obstacles enforced by the (Republicans and Ronald Reagan administration) the keep the social class gap) that create more obstacles to achieve their dream of moving up the social class by getting to middle class life through their jobs. When MacLeod looked at the Brothers’ romance and family life, he found them, contrary to the Hangers, the Brothers have steady relationships with girlfriends and almost none of them have children with their partners except one. It seemed that the brothers’ background and the way they were raised were they reasons why indicated their full awareness of the moral and financial requirements to raise kids.
Even with Juan who has two daughters from two different relationships is a proud and supporting father. Derek who was married after finishing high school did it because his girlfriend at the time was pregnant and he felt obligated to marry her. Generally, they have more respect to women and appreciate their romance friendships than the Hangers. However, the Brothers failed to achieve their desired success and blame themselves for this failure. There are several key factors behind the two groups’ struggle. First, there are numerous barriers in the society that blocked their quest of getting themselves out of poverty as well as the issues of politics, racism, poverty, gender, education and social mobility. There is an issue of generational mobility where members of the two groups could not find their way to the next social class. There are several schools of thoughts that could explain the two groups’ struggle.
The lower class family history of the two groups dictated how far they could go in life. Some members of the Hangers used drug dealings as a shortcut to make some money and avoiding the effects of poverty after their failure of keeping regular jobs which reflects the social class background. A little improvement in the life of the Brothers is a result being raised by a male figure in their life they tend to appreciate family. Also, although the Brothers are not in any better situation than the Hangers, they still dreaming about a better future by keeping their motivation and good thoughts. After looking at the lives of the two groups, there are crucial evidences that regardless of poor people’s ambitions and motivations to have better lives, there are several social forces will keep pushing them to pass poverty from generation to another. MacLeod showed the impact of social welfare policies, incarceration, racism, drug and alcohol abuse, and insufficient educational credentials explain why all of the men struggle to find stable employment in the primary labor market for most of their adult lives.
Chapters 9- 10 Questions:
1. By looking at the intersection between structure and agency for the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers, how can you explain how social class, race, education and family dictate life outcome? 2. MacLeod indicated that the experiences of the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers with the job market are the results of their social network and social capital. Do you believe that in today’s job market it is “who you know and not what you know.”? 3. Out of your own experience, do you believe in the American Dream? Explain why or why not? 4. What is the best social theory that could explain the employment struggle of the Hallway Hanger and the Brothers? Why do you think it is the best? 5. How the social reproduction of poverty affected the dreams of the brothers are compare to the Hallway Hangers? How the education system determined the social roles of the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers. How social and cultural capital interacted in the lives if the two groups.
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Chapter 11 Outclassed and Outcast(e)
Chapter eleven starts with an interaction between MacLeod and a BMW driver. While this man describes those in Clarendon Heights as ignorant, it seems as though the shoe is on the other foot so to speak , he is the one to actually seems ignorant due to lack of understanding concerning the complexity of the issue of poverty .He is eager to place the blame on a poor work ethic. Poverty cannot be explained through solely the individual. The structure must also, be considered. MacLeod states, “Our society is structured to create poverty and extreme economic inequality” (241).This is an ongoing theme in this chapter. While an excessive number of African Americans live in poverty, it is no longer an issue of race. It appears to be better described as an issue of class rather than race. MacLeod goes on to explain how the white poor face just as bleak an outcome as do minorities. Because of their class history, both the Brothers and the Hallway Hangers have trouble finding jobs that can provide a living wage.
The Hallway Hangers did drugs and dropped out of school. And yes, the Brothers avoided drugs and stayed in school, but neither group could elevate themselves out of the working class (with the exceptions of James and Mike). This does not mean that race doesn’t play a role in attaining or maintaining employment. In the case of one mother, a job was lost because of her skin color. Boo Boo was told that an establishment was “not hiring” (248). MacLeod also mentions the greater social network of the Hallway Hangers, leading to more employment opportunities. Within certain jobs (with the example construction), people of color have less of a chance of promotion.
Even as we are presented with this evidence of economic sources of discouragement, the Brothers and Hallway Hangers blame themselves for their lack of success, often saying how they “fucked up.” These outlooks are caused by their situation, not the other way around. Their failures are so often attributed to their level of desert, they begin to agree. They believe they are jumping, when really they are being pushed. The chapter ends with a look to what can be done. Schools can be improved, as can our welfare system (more support with less regulation), but what really needs to change is our society. MacLeod makes a strong argument for distributing wealth more equally. MacLeod urges that we become less like the Eiffel Tower and more like an onion.
Chapter 12 We Don’t Fall Down
In this chapter McLeod uses edited transcripts of recorded interviews to relay the later life details of the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers. By this time several of those on the fringes were of the Hangers were deceased in addition to Boo Boo. However, many of the Hallway Hangers are still alive at this point. During his interview Frankie spoke of connections, “I applied. You know the way them jobs come, Jack only one way you get those jobs. You have fifteen thousand applications; they don’t just pull your name out. Connections. That’s how it works” (279). , Frankie recognizes the power of social capital in landing a decent position of employment. He adds that everyone doesn’t have a chance for success in this country because much success is derived from privilege. He sees economic disparity as a class issue rather than a racial issue. Frankie’s son Darren even sheds some light on the race vs. class issue. He states that there is a lack of unity between poor blacks and poor whites and the two groups are pitted against each other by the government. This causes many of us to view race as the conflicting issue however the real issue is class differences. The controlling powers make all out attempts to portray race as the prevailing issue this prevents the lower classes from recognizing that the real issue is class.
Jinx recognizes how the upper classes amass profit from f the labor power of the working class. “If it wasn’t for us little fucking peons, down there in the fucking trenches, busting our balls, guess what: You wouldn’t be a fucking millionaire. The raises you get – ten, fifteen cents a year – the cost of living is going up more than fifteen cents an hour” ( 295) . He sees that the upper (owning) classes are not making any attempts to bridge the gaps which result in economic disparity. Steve expressed that he is unhappy with how his life has turned out; substance use has caused his downward spiral. He has done jail time , lost his automobile , he isn’t able to keep any licenses that would allow him to become gainfully employed due to nonpayment of child support .He now lives with his mother .
If he were able to change anything thing about his life, he would value education and refrain from substance use. He realizes that his life chances were unlike those of other children because his family was poor. He states “Money gets you the good schools. Money brings you power …….If you’re a rich kid, then you have parents and shit to fall back on, or some sort of stability” (315). With Stoney we see that his children are following the same path of destruction that he did as a child. I see this as being highly representative of the reproduction of class “My kids are in and out of trouble. Same story as me maybe worse, starting a bit younger …….” (319). although Stoney had a very troubled childhood it appears that music and his strong relationship with his wife has made positive changes in his life. He feels that successive generations are getting worse and worse. If he had it to do all over again he would have concentrated more on his education and refrained from substance use.
His sentiments are similar to those expressed by Steve. At the same time Stoney is of the opinion that education isn’t always a guarantee of financial success “ When I was nineteen , working at Carlucci’s and making a decent paycheck for a kid , I got a waitress that’s standing over there that just did six years in college but she’s making twenty bucks less a week than I am. It’s like four years of college doesn’t get you shit anymore” (323). Toward the end of this chapter McLeod poses the question “́To what extents are they, they individuals responsible for what happens to them and to what extent is it the society and the opportunities available to them”? Slick believes that you can only blame society to a certain extent he adds that it is up to the individual to take responsibility for themselves However , at the same time he seems to blame society when he speaks about the universities in the area where he grew up , he states “ They’ll take interest in the people that got money . But those motherfuckers don’t need the help. It’s those people that are poor that need help” (348).
Chapters 11-12 Questions:
1. McLeod argues that race and class are incapable of being disentangled; do you believe that to be true? Why? 2. What major element is to blame for the lack of successes among these two groups of kids? Is it structure, culture, or agency? 3. What suggestions does McLeod offer for how society could address the issue of social reproduction of the class system? 4. Are you in agreement with McLeod’s suggestions on how society can address the social reproduction of the class system? , please explain your answer! 5. What do you see as an explanation for where the men eventually end up? Which matters more with regard to their situation, race or class? Please explain your answer! 6. Do you believe that an individual is able to change their life chances via the attainment of higher education? If so why, If not why? 7. What is meant by becoming less like the Eiffel Tower and more like an onion?
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Chapter 13: “The Brothers. Finally Finding a Foothold”
In chapter 13, author, Jay Macleod summarizes what each brother from Clarendon Heights ends up doing as an occupation and ultimately overall where each ends up and what living situation each ends up in. Their conditions are pretty similar. Each of their jobs and situations stems from their pasts, decisions, networking opportunities and mainly from where they began in high school in Clarendon Heights. They all seem accepting if not satisfied of what they have become. Mokey
Jay Macleod follows up with Mokey in 2006. Mokey ends up as a salaried night shift manager at a scanning machine company that produces and scans documents. He was able to manage to work his way up by paying close attention and doing well. They liked him and therefore moved him up. He moved from Clarendon Heights to Colorado. Macleod describes Mokey’s physical appearance as “evidently fatigued” based on Mokey’s dark eye circles and his overall tired looking face. He ends up in a happy long term inter-racial relationship with his companion Karen. They live in a two bedroom apartment with their son Rayford. He is accepting and comfortable of what his life has become. Super
Super is the only brother who continues to struggle financially due to his lack of steady employment. His immediate past is full of drug dealing. Macleod labels him as “The Hustler” due to the poor situation that he continues to face. His job at the moment is moving furniture at a moving company in which he earns eleven dollars an hour. He expresses that he feels that he can do better job wise. His boss refuses to pay him more. He is divorced and has three children, one of which is not in his custody. Mike
Macleod finds Mike in the industry of Real Estate after having been working for the postal service before. Mike manipulated and networked his way into Real Estate Brokerage actually earning a decent substantial five digit income in the business. He is by far one of the most successful of all of the men- both Hallway Hangers and Brothers. He has been with his girlfriend for fourteen years. They decided not to get married. She has two daughters that Mike assists her with looking after and raising. Juan
Juan winds up as a mechanic and engaged to his fiancée Brenda. They live in an old “Mill Town”. Together they live with four of his five children. He continues to work at “Jim’s Tow”. He drives trucks there on at eight to five schedule working forty hours a week. He continues to resent having to be “dirty” all the time due to the nature of the work. He admits to Macleod that he yearns for a cleaner job where he gets to look better and wear a suit. He says that people judge you buy the way you look. He is happy that he has a house and a mortgage that he can afford and his children will benefit from but he does not have a car. James
Macleod follows up with James in New York City where James now resides. He worked for several years working part time as a tape librarian at a bank for a temp agency. James mentions that he worked at Calvin Klein for several months but was laid off. James discusses how dynamics in offices and in the work place are often complicated. They can be abundant, immoral and detrimental. He also discusses how race plays a factor. People judge him based on the fact that he is black. Nonetheless he’s ended up as a Help Desk Administrator making about fifty two thousand a year with full benefits. James married a pre-school teacher and they have two children. He tries to motivate his children to do well. Derek
Derek lives in the basement bedroom of “a small house in a working class neighborhood.” Derek went from one major airline, “Commercial Airlines” to another, “Travel2.com” from 1996 to “the present.” He now works as a “trainer”. He trains new-hires and he has always made an hourly wage. Derek explains that he has had several serious relationships with women and none of them really worked out. He explains that he just gets bored and ends the relationships. He doesn’t mind feeling lonely.
He needs space sometimes. Sometimes he just wants to be alone. He has several children with the different women and he is a grandfather as well. He has paid child support to the mothers for the children that he fathered despite his low wages. He is unhappy that he isn’t making more money but has come to accept his financial situation as it is. He feels comfortable doing customer service and is looking forward to being “a helicopter pilot in the next year.” Derek prides himself for being optimistic and being a good person. Boo-Boo
Boo-Boo is actually unfortunately no longer living. He and his family all died AIDS. He was hospitalized and bedridden until his condition led to his demise.
Chapter 14: “Reproduction, Redemption, and Respect. Introduction by Jay Macleod”
Before the following analysis of the book, Macleod briefly expresses his astonishment at the true harshness of social inequality. He says “It is more entrenched in the United States than he thought”. However, many of the men succeed in becoming something more than they began as. They are now working class and some may even be middle class. They don’t go as far as they’d hoped but they do make significant progressive improvement from the 1980’s, 1990’s to the 2000s. Macleod mentions that when he discusses the outcomes of the men with his friend Isaac who read the book and grew up in Emerson Heights, he was shocked and unhappy because he feels that the brothers are far more capable than their outcomes suggest. He says that many of them were academically gifted (talented) and intelligent. Macleod comes to the conclusion that individual agency is severely inferior to social conditions and structural constraints. The truth of their outcomes has more to do with their social surroundings. That is where the patterns and true meanings of their outcomes lies.
He then introduces the next section of the chapter, an analysis of the lives of the men based on social structure, and things like stratification, social class and the reproduction of social class. My Summary and Analysis of Chapter 14: “Analysis” by Katherine McClelland and David Karen This analysis is about the surroundings that the men faced as well as how their lives formed due to their surroundings and who they are. First we heard about their lives through their views and now we are able to understand their lives from a sociological and social class standpoint. McClelland and Karen begin by analyzing all of the men, both the Brothers and the Hallway Hangers altogether. They state that one’s primary social class has a major impact on life’s destinations. Social agency is not as powerful as structure and social reproduction. McClelland and Karen focus on factors and motivations on two different levels as lenses in order to understand why things turned out the way that they did for the men. Social and cultural capital are very important when it comes to understanding what happened to the Brothers and the Hallway Hangers because social and cultural capital that they all had are the primary determinants of what opportunities they had to begin with.
Their lack of class consciousness causes them to have increased social agency- despite the positivity that the brothers have they seem to, for the most part, end up in the same types of financial situations as the negative Hallway Hangers. The conditions of the economy contributed to the hardships that the men faced. Minimum wage fluctuated between the 1980’s and early 2000’s. Housing prices rose, etc. These conditions combined with race, class, culture and capital all contributed to the ending circumstances of all of the men. The achievement ideology states that a good education will bring a great career and wealth. However, it is established that having the right contacts is even more necessary when it comes to winning a well-paying job. Who you know is very important as well as “who knows you”. A(n) (potential) employer’s perception of who you are matters when it comes to whether or not they want to hire you to work with you.
Although some of the Brothers and Hallway Hangers are able to work their ways up through the right connections, their backgrounds, people they know, CHR, etc. still keep them at a distance from achieving the success that they want. Despite their motivations, without cultural capital, the Brothers were unable to obtain their dream jobs and the Hallway Hangers’ behavior in school disadvantaged them in the labor market. However, McClelland and Karen also state that the right cultural and social capital are not always enough to open the right doors to success. “Choices [and actions] are constrained by available opportunities”. They state that if their examples, Derek and Stoney were in a better situation from the very beginning, then they would have had more effective resources to resist hardships and trouble and strive toward their goals. Drugs, crime and alcohol also played major roles in the lives of the men. The men were negatively influenced by the drugs, crime and alcohol that was present and highly abundant in their neighborhoods growing up.
There were in fact many invitations for them to join the scene. The socialization involving drugs, crime and alcohol in Clarendon Heights influenced participation in drug and alcohol activity for the Brothers and Hallway Hangers. This too is another social contributor to hardships and failure in their futures. This primary ground that they are born on is an original culprit of social inequality. When it comes to race, the Hallway Hangers all seem to agree on the same idea that racism is reversed because blacks are allowed jobs over whites due to affirmative action. They only see race as far as how it negatively affects them as opposed to considering a bigger picture of what race really means and how society manages it. The Brothers are all aware of racism and racial tensions when it comes to work and life. Each merely acknowledges it and simply minds their matters to the best of their ability. They seem to just accept race for what it is.
When it comes to race, Karen and McClelland conclude that race can hurt a person more when it comes to run-ins with the law. They state that the Brothers find personal ways of accepting and handling race but the Brothers seem to be ignorant or neglectful in understanding the structural aspects of race and the impact of race. Class reproduction is likely to continue to occur when it comes to the men’s children and following generations. They all seem to love their children despite any absences but they cannot rescue the children from social structure. Their children are likely to end up in similar situations due to social structure and social factors. Unlike middle class children, poor children do not have social and economic capital to fall back on in times of need and throughout vulnerable life events. This is a major threatening disadvantage. Close knit family/ relationships make for a personal inner strength that is extremely helpful in order to tackle life obstacles. Many of the men are not fortunate enough to be born into such kinds unbreakable relationships.
Class Consciousness is a very important concept when it comes to where people stand in a given society because it is an account of not necessarily where a person stands, what their social class or socio-economic status actually is, but it is instead in fact, what one thinks their class is. Many people may think of themselves as working class when they are in fact middle class or vice versa. Our perceptions of where we think we stand and where we actually do stand are both very important factors when it comes to understanding socialization, behavior, influence, aspirations and social agency. Personal perception is important as well. The Hallway Hangers had somewhat of an idea of class consciousness, particularly Jinx. He blamed many of his failures on employers, politics and social structure. They rejected school and a few of them had goals when it came to succeeding with respect to class consciousness. They all seemed to realize that there is some sort of a social structure that dominates and as individuals, there is only so much we can control with our social agency. The brothers believed that as individuals, they could overcome many aspects of racism and racial tension. They never seem to really see let alone understand social structure and social class.
Awareness of/ class consciousness can allow for an individual to set realistic attainable goals such as owning a pizza shop (like one of the Hangers aspires to do) but a complete unawareness of it can cause lifelong detrimental disappointment. It’s difficult for all of the men to see the world through the lens of race and class. They just see things as they do and that’s it. Unfortunately social reproduction is highly likely to re-occur for the children of these men. Despite any positive relationships that any of the men have with their female companions and children, their offspring are automatically born into social inequality considering their neighborhoods and even physical factors such as premature birth due to parents’ drug issues. Despite whether or not or how much they assert their learned upbringing or any rational parenting techniques that they decide on, social inequality still exists all around them, in their pasts most definitely and in the present for some of them as well.
A penetration into the middle class could prevent their children from experiencing social inequality of the same magnitude but unfortunately, their kids are not born into that much luck. Karen and McClelland conclude that the odds of achieving success are heavily dependent on luck and structural circumstances. The achievement ideology does not at all teach this reality. They explain that, lifestyle choices matter but are greatly inferior to the larger social setting that we all inhabit. The United States has many programs to help lower income people, those who need help due to drugs, etc. but many things are limited as politics and times change. This changes what resources are available for people like these men. Karen and McClelland refer back to Bourdieu. The given society determines what takes place in it. If the Brothers and hallway Hangers lived elsewhere their life experiences would be different. Another thing is that social structures set up choices and influence choices as well.
We are mostly influenced by our primary dispositions and then our pasts stay with us for life. For example, one’s childhood plays a significant role in who one may most likely grow up to be as an adult. No matter how much or how little he makes of himself, he will always be somewhat influenced by his childhood and his past. Anything that created a lasting impact during a time of vulnerability (an entire childhood can reasonably be understood as a period of vulnerability considering that children can only control very little about their homes, schools and overall surroundings. They are required to follow their parents, and schools guidelines and are unable to effectively dispute and change their surroundings). Karen and McClelland conclude with hopes that our society can come to an agreement of what it means to be respected and hopes that we can use the resources that we do have to create healthcare and programs that can help people like the Brothers and the Hallway Hangers.
QUESTIONS/ QUESTION CLUSTERS:
1. Why do you think that almost all of the brothers mainly blame themselves for their current financial and personal situations? What does this say about who they are inside and how they view the world? 2. Considering their aspirations social agencies, motives, efforts and then their outcomes, what conclusion do you come to about the Brothers in general/ about who they are as people? Do you think that they should blame themselves for not being more successful? If so, to what extent do you think they should blame themselves? Why do you think they never consider social boundaries and the bigger societal picture when it comes to understanding their life outcomes?
3. What role if any, do you believe race, racial tension and institutionalized racism and general racism has played in the lives of the brothers? How significant is race in the United States when it comes to a person’s disposition? 4. Based on the literature we have read/ this book, how effective do you feel education after high school is? How much do you think a given major or program matters when it comes to obtaining an education in order to get a better job? How relevant do you feel education in general is when it comes to entering the labor market? Do you think that schooling and meaningful employment go hand in hand quite as much as the achievement ideology suggests? If education is not a main determiner of class status and financial success, as this book suggests, then do you think that education should be marketed in a more realistic way? Should it motivate people in a different way? If so, how?
5. Knowing, understanding and analyzing are the first steps in treating and curing social problems and conflicts. Now that we have read about social inequality from root to tip, that is, from realistic individual standpoints (the views of the Brothers and the Hallway Hangers) and also from the larger sociological lens (Macleod’s, Karen’s and McClelland’s overall views), what are some first steps do you think can be taken to effectively help socially vulnerable people (the people in Clarendon Heights) and first steps to ending social class inequality? 6. Assuming that you view poverty as a major social issue, can you think of any primary ground ways of preventing things like crime and drugs among low income people (such as educating low-income people about the influences of street life) or can you think of any more common social ways of helping low income people, such as by providing programs and things like affirmative action and awareness to assist low-income people. What do you think can be done or should be done?
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