Charles Murray Essay
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The New Right came from the work of the American Sociologist Charles Murray who viewed welfare payments has causing lone parenthood which in turn created an underclass. Charles Murray visited the UK in 1989 and said it has a developing underclass. Murray said: “the underclass are defined by their behaviour. Their homes are littered and unkempt. The men in the family are unable to hold down a job. Drunkenness is common. The children grew up ill-schooled and ill-behaved and contribute to a disproportionate share of juvenile delinquents” Murray saw underclass as behaviour a lifestyle choice, a disease which infects certain groups of people.
‘When I use the term ‘underclass’ I am indeed focusing on a certain type of poor person defined not by his condition, for example, long-term unemployment, but by his deplorable behaviour in response to that condition, for example, unwilling to take jobs that are available to him.’ This shows how members of the underclass define themselves as different by their own behaviour.
Murray singles out three forms of behaviour that define underclass status: * Parenting behaviour
* Criminal behaviour
* Labour market behaviour
Specifically, it is illegitimate births to young women, habitual crime and particularly violent crime, and the refusal of young working class men to enter employment that determines the existence of an underclass. ‘If illegitimate births are the leading indicator of an underclass and violent crime a proxy measure of its development, the definitive proof that an underclass has arrived is that large numbers of young, healthy, low-income males choose not to take jobs. (The young idle rich are a separate problem).’ (Murray, 1990) Since, in his analysis, it is the poor themselves that are to blame for their poverty, because they either choose to act in a certain way, or are conditioned to do so by over-generous government welfare, the policy solutions that flow from this analysis are, not surprisingly, aimed at changing the behaviour of the poor. The alternative, improving the effectiveness of the welfare programmes, is not considered. Indeed for New Right theorists, the welfare state is a major part of the
problem. What such theorists would seek is the dismantling of the welfare state, and a situation set up that would make it dysfunctional for individuals to act in deviant ways.
Sociologist David Marsland has adopted the new right approach and does not believe that poverty is as bad as others are making out. He claims that groups such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation purposely confuse poverty with inequality and completely exaggerates the extent of poverty. He argues that there is only absolute poverty and that relative does not exist. Marsland is very critical about universal benefits and services such as health care, education and child benefits. He believes that people who are on low income are results of the state being too generous in their benefits and services rather than the individual’s inadequacy to work (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). A quote from Marsland : “the expectation that society, the state, the government, “they”, will look after our problems tricks us into abdicating from self-reliance and social responsibly” (Marsland 1989). However, Marsland has been criticised by Bill Jordan who says that he is wrong to blame the culture of dependency to universal welfare provision. He argues that selectively means testing benefits can trap people in a life of poverty. It often turns out that people are better off on benefits than they would be in work.
It also can exclude the individual from the rest of society and make them feel ashamed and embarrassed that they receive benefits. Also, if education and health care are private then people with disability and unskilled workers may not be able to afford or find work. Jordan also claims that societies that rely upon means-tested benefits and private health care, tend to develop a large underclass, who have little chance of escaping from poverty; this is the case in countries such as America. Jordan states that poverty is a result of societies being too harsh. He argues that the only way to break the cycle of poverty is by universal benefits that are at a high enough standard so people can afford to work and get back up on their feet (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). Despite this, the New Right approach has been influential across Western countries, and the Conservative party is in power in Britain today.