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Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City Paperback – Abridged, September 17, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As sociologist Elijah Anderson shows in the detailed and devastating Code of the Street, the senseless crime in the inner city represents a complex, though ultimately self-defeating, set of social mores. These mores, called "codes," stress a hyperinflated sense of manhood through verbal boasts, drug selling, sexual prowess, and--ultimately--violence and death. "At the heart of the code is the issue of respect," Anderson writes, "loosely defined as being treated 'right' or being granted one's 'props' (or proper due) or the deference one deserves." Anderson reveals a world where unemployment is rampant, teenage pregnancy is common, and social and educational achievement is viewed as "acting white." Although Anderson states that racism is a major factor for this condition, he notes that this type of behavior is further exacerbated by modern economic and political forces, and that it has existed as far back as ancient Rome.

As an African American himself, Anderson moves through the middle- and lower-class Philadelphia neighborhoods with ease, interviewing a variety of subjects, all of whom deal daily with consequences of urban decay--from the high-achieving young woman who had to reject her poorer relatives to better herself, to the former delinquent who tries to go straight after returning from prison. For Anderson, these are the true heroes of Code of the Street: people who overcome the temptations of the streets to help create a better space for the next generation. --Eugene Holley Jr. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Not content to sugarcoat problems or to stockpile blame, Anderson (Streetwise and A Place on the Corner) takes a piercing look at the complex issues surrounding respect, social etiquette and family values in the multicultural neighborhoods along Philadelphia's Germantown Avenue. A major artery of the city, the street reflects the vast social and economic difficulties confronting many of the nation's urban centers. The book soars above other, similar studies when the author takes on the so-called "code of the street" in black areas. A journalist and professor of social sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, Anderson explores the differences between the "decent" families and the "street" families that form the spine of the communities, stressing the daily pressures that shape their choices and goals. He presents candid interviews with such residents as Diane, a principled single mom with four sons, battling valiantly to keep her family out of the trap of despair; Don, an aging gypsy cab driver and churchgoer; and Maggie, a dutiful mother who falls victim to drugs. Some of the book's most compelling chapters deal with the high cost of the drug culture and violence to the inhabitants of the inner city. Alternating between straightforward narrative and interviews, and without pandering to racial stereotypes, Anderson uncovers the confrontation between hard-working families struggling against tremendous odds to preserve their dreams of a better life for their children and the code of the streetA"the thug life"Athat is often the worst enemy of African-American communities. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Code of the Street
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (September 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393320782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393320787
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ELIJAH ANDERSON holds the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professorship in Sociology at Yale University, where he teaches and directs the Urban Ethnography Project. His prominent works include the award-winning books "Code of the Street" and "Streetwise," and 2011's "The Cosmopolitan Canopy." His writings have also appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and the New York Times Book Review. He lives in New Haven and Philadelphia.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Elijah Anderson has done an outstanding job of explaining the sociological, economic, and geographical factors that contribute to the mentality commonly seen among young men in the inner city and the violence that can emerge as a result.

As a young black man that grew up in a two parent home in suburban Maryland, I was extremely confused when I left my small town for middle school. It was there that I was first exposed to black children with less fortunate financial backgrounds, single parent homes, and low value of education and order. As Anderson explains, even in the suburban regions of Maryland adjacent to D.C. inner city attitudes, styles, trends, and even volatility can be seen in young blacks as a result of 'cultural diffusion'. A phenomenon which has a peculiar property of moving up the socioeconomic ladder in the black community.

What I appreciate about Mr. Anderson's book most is that it has finally helped me to answer the question of 'WHY', which has tormented me for almost 15 years. Why have I found myself to be different than many of my black peers as a young man and an adult when all I wanted was a good education, a good job, and to live a decent life. EVERY person, Black or White who has found themself glaring at the low socioeconomic black community and wondering what is wrong, or quoting Bill Cosby Rhetoric while watching a group of hoodlums bully any and everyone off of the sidewalk, or turning up your nose at a pregnant 19 year old girl yelling at her toddler as she mopes down the sidewalk... YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. Understanding is the beginning of dealing with what has become everyone's problem.
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Format: Hardcover
Code of the Street corrects the myth, held by many, that the inner city underclass does not want to work. The book has helped me to discuss with my two foster girls, the difference between decent and street people how to recognize the game. I read passages to them and we discuss, in depth, the issue. I urge all parents, especially foster parents, to read this book. I had repeatedly observed the Code but like a jigsaw puzzle, not understanding how it all connected. Thanks to Mr. Anderson, he enabled me to see the picture entirely as it exists.
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Format: Hardcover
Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street is, as one would expect from an observer with Professor Anderswon's track record, extremely valuable in demystifying and humanizing the behavior of both the good and the bad of the people who live in the nation's black ghettos. With his usual keen eye and ear, and his interest in human behavior, and his good humor, Anderson puts us right on the streets of Philadelphia (and every other urban area), walking among the well-to-do and the striving and the desperate as we track Germantown Avenue from the environs of comfort and affluence back to the inner city. The book's value in explaining the behavior of those at the bottom of the society, whether that behavior is good or bad, as the normal reaction of human beings when faced with an extreme situation can't be over-praised. His description of the code of the street also rang bells for me that all of us, including those that live and work in far more rarefied environs, also operate by codes of behavior that, in both their good and bad manifestations, are fundamentally no different than the ones identified here. They, usually, are just expressed in a more genteel fashion.
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Format: Paperback
I am so impressed with this book I can't believe it. Every page provided a new insight. As a white person I gained a whole new perspective on...well, everything, it seems like. Mr. Anderson does such a great job of giving an "inside look" into the inner city world, you really come away understanding a whole lot more.

I appreciated that Anderson laid the facts out without playing the blame game. His writing is objective but also compassionate; you can really see *individuals,* not just "black people." I closed the book thinking, "Well, I can't change everything, but with this knowledge I can sure make changes in myself, and at least that's a start." It takes a great book to provide that kind of power and inspiration. Just for that alone, I think every white person should read this book.

So, Bravo, Mr. Anderson! Please continue to write on the subject!
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Format: Paperback
This book in my opinion should be required text for any sociology class dealing with the issues of class, race, cities and violence. I found this book while i was searching for books to write my undergraduate thesis. This book paired with a book by Carl Upchurch was the main focus and content of my thesis. i am currentlly using this book for my masters thesis. This book describes life in Philly but once you get into it, it could be any mid-sized city in America. It highlights the struggles that todays youth go through on a daily basis to be either "decent" or "street" and unfortunatly at times the line between the two isn't clear and everyone is lumped as "street". Hands down one of the best books i've read on the subject.
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Format: Paperback
This book should be on the required reading list for any practitioner in the system, especially those who work in the fields of criminal justice and social services.

In this very real, very hard hitting account of what happens to generations of people who feel disconnected from the dominant society in which they live, we are given a view of what motivates some of them to continue their lifestyles.

Dr.Anderson's account of the code of the street, does not only include teens, but also, everyone in the community.

I found the concept of "code switching", as well as his personal interviews with both teens and adults, fascinating.

I especially enjoyed his accounts of the day to day lives of several individuals and how they handled their ever growing problems.

All in all, I found the book hard to put down, once I began to read it.

I found that throughout the entire book, Dr. Anderson was always aware that there are no simple answers to the big questions. However, in spite of how dire the situation appears in the inner cities, he does offer some suggestions and hope.
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