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Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City

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Inner-city black America is often stereotyped as a place of random violence, but in fact, violence in the inner city is regulated through an informal but well-known code of the street. This unwritten set of rules—based largely on an individual's ability to command respect—is a powerful and pervasive form of etiquette, governing the way in which people learn to negotiate pu Inner-city black America is often stereotyped as a place of random violence, but in fact, violence in the inner city is regulated through an informal but well-known code of the street. This unwritten set of rules—based largely on an individual's ability to command respect—is a powerful and pervasive form of etiquette, governing the way in which people learn to negotiate public spaces. Elijah Anderson's incisive book delineates the code and examines it as a response to the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, to the stigma of race, to rampant drug use, to alienation and lack of hope.


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Inner-city black America is often stereotyped as a place of random violence, but in fact, violence in the inner city is regulated through an informal but well-known code of the street. This unwritten set of rules—based largely on an individual's ability to command respect—is a powerful and pervasive form of etiquette, governing the way in which people learn to negotiate pu Inner-city black America is often stereotyped as a place of random violence, but in fact, violence in the inner city is regulated through an informal but well-known code of the street. This unwritten set of rules—based largely on an individual's ability to command respect—is a powerful and pervasive form of etiquette, governing the way in which people learn to negotiate public spaces. Elijah Anderson's incisive book delineates the code and examines it as a response to the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, to the stigma of race, to rampant drug use, to alienation and lack of hope.

30 review for Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Wyss

    Anderson’s book is an interesting, enthralling look at life in inner-city Philadelphia. His ethnographic portraits of how individuals navigate life in an extremely poor, all African American neighborhood are important, powerful, and add to our understanding of inner-city experiences and the legacy of slavery and the ongoing existence of racism and racial segregation. However, the book has a few problems, most of which revolve around gender and Anderson’s attention to it. “Code of the Street” is Anderson’s book is an interesting, enthralling look at life in inner-city Philadelphia. His ethnographic portraits of how individuals navigate life in an extremely poor, all African American neighborhood are important, powerful, and add to our understanding of inner-city experiences and the legacy of slavery and the ongoing existence of racism and racial segregation. However, the book has a few problems, most of which revolve around gender and Anderson’s attention to it. “Code of the Street” is a book where masculinity is everywhere and nowhere at once. It is everywhere because the vast majority of the people that he profiles are men. So the book centers around their lives; women are often absent or peripheral. And yet masculinity is nowhere because Anderson apparently has no knowledge of gender or feminist theory. Having most of his informants be men would not be a problem if he would actually talk about why this is the case (presumably because, as an African American man, he had much easier access to African American men in the Philadelphia community that he studied). Certainly, masculinity studies are incredibly important, and we can only understand why and how men got into the mess that they’re in by studying them. But Anderson’s lack of explanation leads the reader to wonder if his lack of focus on women springs from his lack of concern with their lives and experiences. Why is it that women are most prevalent only in the chapters on pregnancy/dating/childbirth and grandmothering? Certainly women have more to contribute to his story than just that. What are women’s lives like when they aren’t acting as auxiliaries to men? It does not seem that Anderson was intentional in his focus on men. While I understand that he is writing a mainstream, non-academic book, a few brief sentences in his introductory chapter would have been sufficient to explain the relative absence of women from his text. The second problem is his seeming complete inability to critically analyze gender. The men in his book have lives steeped in gender -- sexism, misogyny, homophobia, self- and other-policing, violence, hatred, compulsory heterosexuality, and prison. Yet the term “masculinity” makes very few appearances in this text. And it’s not until page 311 that I noticed the term “sexism” show up anywhere. Without an overt gender/feminist analysis, Anderson misses critical points and potentially insightful analysis that isn’t available through other theoretical frameworks. Why is it, for instance, that men are able to police each other’s behavior so effectively? Why are the men in his book so terrified of not appearing strong? Why does the appearance of strength mean that one is masculine? How is it that particular kinds of masculinity are allowed to “triumph” over others in this (or any other) community? Who helps perpetuate those images and stereotypes? Why are women relegated to the home and not allowed on the street in the same way that men are? While Anderson is well-versed in criticizing racism and classism, it appears that sexism and masculinity are not one of his concerns. A feminist or gender analysis could have answered all of those questions. His work is so much the poorer for leaving that out. True, Anderson’s book was published in 1999. But there was a solid 35 years of contemporary feminist scholarship out there by that point -- not to mention reams of historical scholarship. And while masculinity studies was still young, it certainly existed and was a burgeoning field. So Anderson cannot claim that no one else was doing critical analyses of masculinity at that time. The absence of it from his book is extremely frustrating and leaves many, many questions unanswered. Finally, I wish that Anderson would have focused more on structural issues within the context of his ethnographic writing. While he sprinkles throughout the book small mentions of structural reasons underlying the problems in his chosen Philadelphia community, it is not until the end of the last chapter that he really gets into what happened and what needs to change so that the situation can be ameliorated. Unfortunately, I am concerned that his individual-level focus in the rest of the book risks perpetuating the racism of white readers who will see a bunch of dysfunctional, violent, drug-using African American men profiled (with a few women thrown in for good measure) and have all of their stereotypes and fears of “inner-city blacks” confirmed. Anderson’s book could have been amazing. But it lacks several critical components that, in my mind, keep it in the category of mediocre scholarship. I hope that his subsequent work has improved upon “Code of the Street.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    In fairness, I should note that I read this book over a decade after it had been published. This aside, it is a book that clearly influenced such work as HBO’s The Wire (best series ever). That said, I have to wonder why more attention or study wasn’t given to the women. In many ways, this is a book about men in those areas with little sidebars about the women. There is no concrete example given of the women outside the blanket stereotypes that are assigned to them. There is nothing wrong with th In fairness, I should note that I read this book over a decade after it had been published. This aside, it is a book that clearly influenced such work as HBO’s The Wire (best series ever). That said, I have to wonder why more attention or study wasn’t given to the women. In many ways, this is a book about men in those areas with little sidebars about the women. There is no concrete example given of the women outside the blanket stereotypes that are assigned to them. There is nothing wrong with this, but the book would have benefited from either (1) more detail about the women or (2) cutting the women out to a greater degree. That complaint aside, the book is still a must read for any study of American inner cities. Furthermore, if you are planning on reading (or if you have read) Ghettoside, this is a good precursor or companion to that work.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    I work in the criminal justice system in Philadelphia and have great respect for Elijah Anderson's perspective. His accounts and explanations are as real as it gets. Anyone who works with poverty stricken, at-risk populations in urban areas should be aware of Anderson's work. This book gets a bit wordy at times but the underlying message is clear. We need to do more to educate and train these individuals for legitimate professions. Otherwise we are going to continue, unsuccessfully, attempting t I work in the criminal justice system in Philadelphia and have great respect for Elijah Anderson's perspective. His accounts and explanations are as real as it gets. Anyone who works with poverty stricken, at-risk populations in urban areas should be aware of Anderson's work. This book gets a bit wordy at times but the underlying message is clear. We need to do more to educate and train these individuals for legitimate professions. Otherwise we are going to continue, unsuccessfully, attempting to arrest our way out of the problem.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Camille

    This book proved to be a lot to ponder and realize about the life of a lot of people of color, not necessarily those in the inner city. I was able to relate to a lot of what was being said and explained and it shed some light on other things that I had not experienced. This is a read that can be used as a reference over and over again and it would be right to have this as a bit of required reading for college courses, it it isn't already. This would have been a good resource for my African Ameri This book proved to be a lot to ponder and realize about the life of a lot of people of color, not necessarily those in the inner city. I was able to relate to a lot of what was being said and explained and it shed some light on other things that I had not experienced. This is a read that can be used as a reference over and over again and it would be right to have this as a bit of required reading for college courses, it it isn't already. This would have been a good resource for my African American studies class at my HBCU.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tippy Jackson

    yeah. Not so much. I have many problems with this book. First off, it is very clearly written by a middle-aged man. This man has very specific ideas of gender rolls and the place of "decency" and "family values" in a community and any different or modern ideas of these things are not considered. His opinions (which are largely unfounded) on teen pregnancy and welfare are vague, absurd and apparently based on common rumors spread by young males in the neighborhood. They lack even a basic understa yeah. Not so much. I have many problems with this book. First off, it is very clearly written by a middle-aged man. This man has very specific ideas of gender rolls and the place of "decency" and "family values" in a community and any different or modern ideas of these things are not considered. His opinions (which are largely unfounded) on teen pregnancy and welfare are vague, absurd and apparently based on common rumors spread by young males in the neighborhood. They lack even a basic understanding of teenagers, women in particular and the options available (or not available) to them. Lastly, he distances himself from his more telling statements and makes it seem as though the statements are just random, unfounded beliefs held by the people he's writing about. For example, one statement "Many assume that the police hold the black community in low repute and sometimes will abuse its members." This is not a random assumption that people hold. He does not discuss the basis for these "assumptions" at all. Another example: "A double standard of justice is thought to exist..." Again, it's not just a thought or belief that there is a double standard of justice. There are quite of lot of statistics to back their feelings on this one up. I understand not wanting to get into these larger issues and what is important for his major points is how the community perceives the system rather than how the system actually is. However, I think he does a huge disservice to the people he's supposedly educating us about by not including at least a small introduction to where these perceptions come from.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Will Turner

    Code of the Street is a helpful, if not slightly dated and overly repetitive look at the oppositional culture of urban America. He develops the dichotomy of "street" vs. "decent." While I generally agree with his two poles I would prefer to see them as two extremes on a line of continuum. And people are often in flux shifting between "street" and "decent" depending on the situation they find themselves in. Of course, there are some who are further along to the left or the right (more street, mor Code of the Street is a helpful, if not slightly dated and overly repetitive look at the oppositional culture of urban America. He develops the dichotomy of "street" vs. "decent." While I generally agree with his two poles I would prefer to see them as two extremes on a line of continuum. And people are often in flux shifting between "street" and "decent" depending on the situation they find themselves in. Of course, there are some who are further along to the left or the right (more street, more decent). This book is most helpful when Anderson allows "the people" to speak, when he transcribes the words of those who are actually in the thick of it. I personally found these accounts most helpful. And they served to back up the points Anderson was seeking to make. The chapter I found most helpful, and true, was the one on the grandmother. I see this play out day after day. Living in a very similar neighborhood (in Philly) while also working at a homeless shelter in center city, I witness every day the dance of men and women chronicled by Anderson. While I wish this book wasn't so overtly repetitive and dated, I still found it as a generally accurate assessment of the inner city urban life I experience around me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    In this ethnographic study of North Philadelphia "street culture" Anderson reproduces many of the myths about a self destructive black, urban "underclass." While he avoids outright victim blaming, by accepting the - then common - "culture of poverty" narrative, Anderson locates the root of urban poverty and its byproducts not in the fundamental economic and political inequality created and perpetuated by capitalism but in black "pathology". Further, Anderson's own moral predispositions permeate In this ethnographic study of North Philadelphia "street culture" Anderson reproduces many of the myths about a self destructive black, urban "underclass." While he avoids outright victim blaming, by accepting the - then common - "culture of poverty" narrative, Anderson locates the root of urban poverty and its byproducts not in the fundamental economic and political inequality created and perpetuated by capitalism but in black "pathology". Further, Anderson's own moral predispositions permeate his discussion of what he calls "street" and "decent" people. The very words through which he draws this dichotomy reflect his belief that the ghetto is engaged in some kind of epic struggle between "good" and "evil" - it is no challenge to determine which team Anderson is rooting for.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Taylor

    Elijah Anderson does an excellent job profiling the norms and street life in one urban neighborhood. This is a transformative book, in that, if you have never survived the streets of a violent, drug-infested, crime-ridden city, you will learn so much from Anderson's portrayal, where he transports you to the streets. An excellent ethnography, Anderson's writing style helps make this book a pleasure to read. Elijah Anderson does an excellent job profiling the norms and street life in one urban neighborhood. This is a transformative book, in that, if you have never survived the streets of a violent, drug-infested, crime-ridden city, you will learn so much from Anderson's portrayal, where he transports you to the streets. An excellent ethnography, Anderson's writing style helps make this book a pleasure to read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    trickgnosis

    A very readable ethnographic account of life in some of the worst inner-city neighborhoods in Philadelphia--kind of an academic counterpart to David Simon's The Corner. The book is ten years old now so some of the details feel a bit dated but the dilemmas it describes are still relevant and the problems have yet to be solved. A very readable ethnographic account of life in some of the worst inner-city neighborhoods in Philadelphia--kind of an academic counterpart to David Simon's The Corner. The book is ten years old now so some of the details feel a bit dated but the dilemmas it describes are still relevant and the problems have yet to be solved.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I didn't get this book, it just felt like a whole lot of generalizations. Ostensibly he did research, but he doesn't use a lot of examples to back up what he's saying. I didn't get this book, it just felt like a whole lot of generalizations. Ostensibly he did research, but he doesn't use a lot of examples to back up what he's saying.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Nearpass

    Besides being a little outdated this book is excellent. Anderson exegeses of inner city black culture is outstanding and very helpful to anyone interesting in urban work.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marcie

    4 stars for the topic, the examples, and the information 2 stars for how poorly it was written

  13. 5 out of 5

    Raina

    Unpacks the dynamic of innercity life. Read it for the Oregon Extension program in college, and it's stayed with me. Unpacks the dynamic of innercity life. Read it for the Oregon Extension program in college, and it's stayed with me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jared

    Poorly done ethnography

  15. 4 out of 5

    Drick

    The first three chapters of this book basically make Anderson's point, that there is a different moral/ethical code for the "decent" families in the inner city black community and the "street" families. He then spends the rest of the book drawing out the implications for childhood preganancy, grandmothers, and fathers. In the last two chapters Anderson leaves the objective pose of the sociologist and tells the stories of two young men with whom he got personally involved in the course of his "re The first three chapters of this book basically make Anderson's point, that there is a different moral/ethical code for the "decent" families in the inner city black community and the "street" families. He then spends the rest of the book drawing out the implications for childhood preganancy, grandmothers, and fathers. In the last two chapters Anderson leaves the objective pose of the sociologist and tells the stories of two young men with whom he got personally involved in the course of his "research." These two chapters were powerful in that they made personal what he had been discussing generally. I liked this book but found the long transcriptions of certain charactars to be tedious. At times also it seemed like Anderson was simply saying the same thing over and over again. Finally, he was long on description, some truncated in terms of analysis (basically blaming the current inner city situation on the loss of manufacturing in the city) and very short on solutions. Thus while I would give the book an A for helping us understand street culture, I would give a much lower grade for helping us address the more self-destructive and dysfunctional aspects of urban street culture.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carolynne

    Unfortunately, this book was borrowed from a college library and I had to return it unfinished. As a future mental health counselor, I wanted to get some insight into the culture of "the street". I think Anderson did an excellent job of exploring this through the use of a particular Philadelphia neighborhood. I found myself continually distracted, however, by how "dated" this book is. Having been published in 1999, I had to question how much of the material he provides is still relevant. For exa Unfortunately, this book was borrowed from a college library and I had to return it unfinished. As a future mental health counselor, I wanted to get some insight into the culture of "the street". I think Anderson did an excellent job of exploring this through the use of a particular Philadelphia neighborhood. I found myself continually distracted, however, by how "dated" this book is. Having been published in 1999, I had to question how much of the material he provides is still relevant. For example, he describes a neighborhood where the drug dealers congregate around neighborhood pay phones. In 2014, the poorest crack addict on the street probably has a mobile phone. I would love to find more recent books of this genre to help me understand my future clientele.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Devon

    Best ethnography of American urban poverty that I've been exposed to. Acknowledges the complex combinations of individual choices and social systems that lead people to get stuck in or make their way out of poverty. States the facts and leaves the value assessments to the reader. The intention was to explain the presence of drugs and violence, so it was a little light on the positive elements of this culture. Best ethnography of American urban poverty that I've been exposed to. Acknowledges the complex combinations of individual choices and social systems that lead people to get stuck in or make their way out of poverty. States the facts and leaves the value assessments to the reader. The intention was to explain the presence of drugs and violence, so it was a little light on the positive elements of this culture.

  18. 5 out of 5

    J. Trott

    The Gangstarr song of the same name shows a greater passion for inventive expression. This book is good. I wish it had more stories, and less analysis. It's conclusions do not seem deep to me, but then I invest a good amount of mental energy thinking about the questions that this book attempts to answer. If you don't understand the code of the streets, this would be a good way to learn. Them buls ain't playin. The Gangstarr song of the same name shows a greater passion for inventive expression. This book is good. I wish it had more stories, and less analysis. It's conclusions do not seem deep to me, but then I invest a good amount of mental energy thinking about the questions that this book attempts to answer. If you don't understand the code of the streets, this would be a good way to learn. Them buls ain't playin.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alissa

    Anyone who has experienced low socio-economic, inner-city culture should read this book! Some of it was new information. Most of it was not. But it put together a framework for understanding what I already knew in a different light. By doing so it answered a lot of questions I had that were left over from my previous experiences living in this culture for short periods of time. It's not a difficult read, it's entertaining, and very informative - well worth your time! Anyone who has experienced low socio-economic, inner-city culture should read this book! Some of it was new information. Most of it was not. But it put together a framework for understanding what I already knew in a different light. By doing so it answered a lot of questions I had that were left over from my previous experiences living in this culture for short periods of time. It's not a difficult read, it's entertaining, and very informative - well worth your time!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is a very good text, but I thought Anderson would have done better by providing a comparison between the moral code of inner city youth and another moral code. After reading this, I did have to be careful not to treat the findings as a basis for interacting with people whom I worked with that came from the inner city of Philadelphia.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Foxmj

    This book makes a culture of poverty argument, and takes it too the extreme. There is no analysis. It is littered with conjecture and rumor that ends up casting its subjects in the worst light possible. It blames the victims of poverty. I can't say enough that this book is one of the worst things to happen to sociology. This book makes a culture of poverty argument, and takes it too the extreme. There is no analysis. It is littered with conjecture and rumor that ends up casting its subjects in the worst light possible. It blames the victims of poverty. I can't say enough that this book is one of the worst things to happen to sociology.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    A little dated now but a decent look into the world of the inner city for Black Americans. Based on a trip down Germantown Avenue into Philly from the burbs, it describes the subtle and not so subtle changes one encounters on the way, as the city gets grittier and grittier.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The interviews and personal stories in this book are compelling, but so much of Anderson's information is repetitive, or overly generalized. I'm glad I read the book, but was hoping to get a little more from it. The interviews and personal stories in this book are compelling, but so much of Anderson's information is repetitive, or overly generalized. I'm glad I read the book, but was hoping to get a little more from it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Reading for class. It's a look at inner city Philadelphia. Reading for class. It's a look at inner city Philadelphia.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Saltz

    If you want a view of inner city life from an anthropologist, this is a good book. Otherwise, meh.

  26. 5 out of 5

    jmeko

    Highly recommended ethnography.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janastasia Whydra

    My first impression of Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City was of disbelief. I thought, based on the Introduction, Anderson was attempting to state that race = class = personality. Therefore, White = Money = Friendly Neighborhood and Black = Poor = Violent Neighborhood. Anderson breaks down his Introduction within the next four chapters. I come to the conclusion that Anderson meant race can have an influencing factor of a person's persona My first impression of Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City was of disbelief. I thought, based on the Introduction, Anderson was attempting to state that race = class = personality. Therefore, White = Money = Friendly Neighborhood and Black = Poor = Violent Neighborhood. Anderson breaks down his Introduction within the next four chapters. I come to the conclusion that Anderson meant race can have an influencing factor of a person's personal economics and ethics and when the latter two are combined it creates an identity for the neighborhood. Ex. Racism can affect the victim by demoralizing him/her and affect his/her work. If the job is lost, or there had been no job in the first place, he/she will attempt to earn income in another manner that is above the realm of racism and it is usually outside of the norms of mainstream society and likely to be illegal, which creates a bad reputation for the neighborhood. Then Anderson had to beat this hypothesis a little further with the next three chapters, including a self-congratulatory chapter of which he tells of a story of how he attempting to help a "street" man become a "decent" man, but the "system" proved to be more difficult for Anderson to navigate and this other man did not take his personal responsibility seriously enough. I'm sure Anderson wanted this man's story to be known because there are countless of others like him, yet, I couldn't help,but get the feeling he wanted the audience to also know what an "involved" guy he was. The conclusion was what really affected my score of two vs. three stars. The conclusion, in my opinion, represents the book. There was another story of the struggle for a "street" man to become a "decent" man and how it makes Anderson looks good. The conclusion was full of repetitious themes and a couple of pages before the Conclusion ended, Anderson actually wrote, "In Conclusion," as if the other twenty pages were not part of the conclusion and I had wasted my time. Anderson reiterated the point of each chapter which wasted my time even more. Finally, he implores society to come up with a system that will help the alienated inner city men and women integrate back into the mainstream society. If Anderson can not do it successfully, what makes him think the whole of society will be able to?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Megan Verhagen

    Anderson's book obviously made great contributions to the field of criminology. As mentioned in previous reviews and by academic critics however, there are some issues in his work. Specifically noted as a feminist scholar, is Anderson's tendency to treat adherence to traditional gender roles as a form of positive coping for what he calls the 'decent family' and an obsession with toxic gender roles as a plight of being 'street'. Discussing the influence of gender roles as both protective and toxi Anderson's book obviously made great contributions to the field of criminology. As mentioned in previous reviews and by academic critics however, there are some issues in his work. Specifically noted as a feminist scholar, is Anderson's tendency to treat adherence to traditional gender roles as a form of positive coping for what he calls the 'decent family' and an obsession with toxic gender roles as a plight of being 'street'. Discussing the influence of gender roles as both protective and toxic influences on the underclass population he studied could have been extremely valuable, however Anderson does not give attention to how these roles have developed within the underclass, how intersection and other facets of identity influence gender role socialization, nor how structural and institutional factors continue to enforce adherence to these gender roles. Additionally, Wilson's 'The Truly Disadvantaged' was published in 1987. He did a much better job explaining each issue Anderson brought up by utilizing a macro focus that addresses how historical events, neighborhood structures, and institutional abandonment of the underclass interacted with class and race to influence crime and criminality. If Anderson had drawn and expanded on Wilson's work with his ethnographic research it would have been a much richer analysis. I think some of the more valuable contributions of this work are Anderson's discussion on how 'decent youth' have to learn and sometimes use the street code to survive, how illegal drug markets were able to take the place of legal economic opportunities in underprivileged communities, and how there is a duality to police involvement with these communities i.e.) police being absent and/or ignoring problems in the community makes members feel that police can't be trusted or don't care about them but when police do interact it is often in violent ways or, intervening/harassing 'decent' people due to their inability to distinguish between the people committing crimes and those following the code of the street on the surface just to survive in a violent neighborhood.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    An interesting look at the streets of Philadelphia (insert Springsteen joke here). It is amazing that my students have so much in common with 90s street culture in Philadelphia. I found this when I was researching respect after a recent shooting. The early part of the book involved a lot of head nodding and "yupping" because I recognized a lot of the behaviors. After 15 years of experience there wasn't a lot of new material, but it would have been nice to have this about 10 years ago. Other than An interesting look at the streets of Philadelphia (insert Springsteen joke here). It is amazing that my students have so much in common with 90s street culture in Philadelphia. I found this when I was researching respect after a recent shooting. The early part of the book involved a lot of head nodding and "yupping" because I recognized a lot of the behaviors. After 15 years of experience there wasn't a lot of new material, but it would have been nice to have this about 10 years ago. Other than some of the dated references to pagers, this book is an excellent portrait of what some people in our society have to go through. The code of the street has some similarities to the man code, but where I might suppress my urge to punch some idiot or vent it in the latest escapades of the Expendables, people with no recourse must rely on the threat of physical retaliation. That threat is meaningless without occasionally backing it up. The case studies are the most compelling part of the book. Some the exposition became a little repetitive after a while.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lee (Rocky)

    This book is an ethnography of the black inner city of Philadelphia. The first half of the book is very general, and full of assertions that are pretty obvious to anyone who knows just a little bit of history or pays attention to the news. It is also full of the author explaining slang terms, many of which were extremely common expressions that are ubiquitous across racial and socioeconomic lines. Several of these explanations were so unnecessary as to come across as sort of condescending (thoug This book is an ethnography of the black inner city of Philadelphia. The first half of the book is very general, and full of assertions that are pretty obvious to anyone who knows just a little bit of history or pays attention to the news. It is also full of the author explaining slang terms, many of which were extremely common expressions that are ubiquitous across racial and socioeconomic lines. Several of these explanations were so unnecessary as to come across as sort of condescending (though I couldn't tell if the condescension was towards the people who he was quoting, or towards the reader). The second half of the book spends a lot more time telling stories of individual people, often in their own words for many pages at a time. These parts were for more interesting and satisfying to read.

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