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Blaming the Victim Mass Market Paperback – July 12, 1976

ISBN-13: 978-0394722269 ISBN-10: 0394722264 Edition: 2nd

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Blaming the Victim + From Poor Law to Welfare State, 6th Edition: A History of Social Welfare in America
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 2 edition (July 12, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394722264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394722269
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“An impassioned, often brilliant expose of middle-class ideology.”—Herbert Gans“An illusion-shatterer of the first order…if you are concerned, you must read this book. It will stop you in your tracks.”—Library Journal

From the Publisher

"An impassioned, often brilliant exposé of middle-class ideology."--Herbert Gans

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Vimont on February 22, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The first chapter in this book, alone, makes this a classic for understanding how social problems are dealt with in our individualistic ideological society. His formula for "Blaming the Victim" covers just a couple of pages but is than intellectually expounded upon in this book by analyzing various social problems. Some may consider William Ryan an ideologue; however, I find him to be a practical fellow. He doesn't view the formula for "Blaming the Victim" as inherently evil as some radicals might - he simply finds it as the root cause for not solving social problems in our society. If the root cause of a social problem is the social structure, yet we seek to solve the social problem through, strictly, rehabilitation of the individual, the social problem is left unsolved.
I have taught several classes on poverty, social problems and social welfare and am able to utilize Ryan's book in all of these classes. His presentation is put forward in a common-sense manner, and he provides a rational refutation on commonly held beliefs on problems ranging from poverty to child abuse. This is a book worth getting if for no other reason to reevaluate how we look at problems and more importantly how to go about solving them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on May 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was first published on the heels of the famous Moynihan Report in 1965, which identified problems in the African American family to the fact that there were so many fatherless families in that culture. Mr. Ryan is distinguished by having invented the expression "Blaming the Victim" with this book. He accuses the Moynihan Report of blaming the black community for its own problems. The problem is that is not what the Moynihan report did. It provided an explanation for those problems which was different from the assumption at the time of not enough schools or jobs. Moynihan connected the cause to the history of slavery and discrimination over the previous centuries.

Mr. Ryan does not so much argue against Moynihan's conclusion as he accuses Moynihan of continuing racism. Now, I cannot say some people did not reach racist conclusions from Moynihan's report; however, there is no sense criticizing a worthy explanation, since the only way one will cure a problem is by understanding its causes. There are other, worthy books, as recently published as 4 years ago, which defend Daniel Patrick Moynihan's conclusions, which is a good thing, because the problem has not yet disappeared.
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bruce E. Nevin on February 19, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Everyone has weaknesses. In the best of circumstances these flaws are inconsequential and invisible. But when we are in distress, they get in the way or cause outright harm.
Institutions and customary social arrangements can ease the causes of distress. If we create institutions that alleviate people's predicaments, their flaws and weaknesses do not surface. As a demonstration on a relatively small scale, consider Milton Mazer, People and Predicaments.
The issue here is not welfare, in the sense of labor-free livelihood. Everyone knows only the most wealthy deserve that. Think public transportation that works. Think medical care. Think intervention into abuse. Think Head Start, an enormous success for very little money. Think paying teachers commensurately to their training and their contribution to society.
Our institutions and customary social arrangements benefit some people more than others. It's an obvious but oddly ignored truth that those benefited most are least aware of it. That's just the way life is for them, so it must be so for everyone. Consequently, it seems to them that another's unsuccess must be due to a failure of intention or even to willful parasitism.
This is what Ryan identifies as blaming the victim.
Does "destructive behavior underpin poverty" or does institutionalized poverty expose and amplify human frailty with destructive consequences? The question is, if you want to change matters, what is effective. Shaking one's finger and instructing people in proper values has never had much effect. To say that failure is due to ineradicable character flaws obviously goes nowhere, unless to euthanasia.
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By Martin TI on April 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The classic victim-blaming-situation is a woman who has been raped. The rapist, some of his family members, and a variety of his friends will blame the woman. They will say something like: "She was drunk and dressed provocatively. It was her own fault. She asked for it..." Apparently victim-blaming also works on a large scale. This book shows how whole groups or segments of people are often blamed. "The poor are unhealthy because they don't buy a health insurance." This is top-notch middleclass logic, morality and explaining away. The reason is, of course, that the middleclass doesn't want to feel guilty. No one wants to feel guilty. It's a pain in the butt to feel guilty....."I certainly haven't done anything wrong. Let's put the blame on somebody else."
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