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Street Wars: Gangs and the Future of Violence Hardcover – May 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 430 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; First Edition edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848764
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848764
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,372,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Over 25,000 young people have died as a result of urban street violence over the past 20 years, writes Tom Hayden in Street Wars. As staggering as that number is, he still finds room for optimism, stressing that gang violence is preventable, not inevitable, and that former gang members are not necessarily incorrigible criminals. In making his point, he offers many examples of how one-time violent criminals made the unlikely transformation to peacemakers and community leaders. Specifically, he focuses on the early 1990s in which a concerted effort was made by gang members to stop the violence in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and other cities by formally declaring truces and working to provide alternatives to gangs for young people in their communities. After a strong start and a significant decrease in reported gang violence, progress began to stall. Why this effort has not achieved more is a central question in Street Wars. Hayden believes the answer lies in the myopic "tough on crime" approach that continues to be favored by most politicians. Citing his decade of first-hand experience with the subject, he maintains that relying solely on law-and-order solutions will not decrease, much less solve, the crisis of urban violence in America: "When it comes to the inner city, our country thrives politically on scapegoating rather than finding solutions." As proof, he cites the construction of new prisons over funding for programs that have proven to help young people stay off of the streets. He even goes further, calling for a New Deal approach to wiping out inner-city violence and replacing hopelessness with opportunity. Though this is certainly not the final word in the punitive versus preventative debate, Hayden's research and moving anecdotes add to the discussion of gang violence in America. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

A California state senator and the founder of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), Hayden (Reunion) infuses this text with the idealism and passion for social justice for which he is well known. His central point is familiar: gang violence in areas like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago stems from the appalling social and economic conditions of inner-city life. But his exploration of the gang phenomenon's sociology is somewhat less tired: Hayden shows gang members, or homies, banding together to find connection, understanding and respect that is denied to them through pathways and social codes controlled by the more affluent. He includes vivid and involved anecdotes of the kind of gangland peacemaking attempts that he believes can, in addition to economic and social reform, save lives. He attacks the "tough on crime" mentality that, he charges, has resulted in decades of police brutality to homies and demonized them as urban terrorists. Hayden rambles on, but his arguments about the failures of the war on drugs and of the incarceration of young males to solve the endemic problems of poverty and alienation are compelling.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sean M. Leys on February 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a resident, educator, and community activist in Watts I have come to know the problems this book addresses intimately. Tom Hayden is an outsider to all of this, as is most of the book's audience, but you would never know it from the positions he takes. He has done us the enormous service of having listened deeply to people who many are afraid to even look in the eye. And he adds to this his own insights as a policymaker and insider to the political world that is intimately, if often destructively, connected to the social fabric from which gangs arise. A better, more insightful analysis of gangs could come only from putting down your books, turning off your computer, and working face to face with gang members yourself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Citizen John TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
I don't like gangs. They degrade quality of life wherever they exist. But they serve a purpose to their members, providing a sense of family. Too bad the really violent gangs don't let their members quit. Hayden explains in this book why we have gangs and why we're not very successful at getting rid of them.

When we explore gangs, motivated to create safe neighborhoods that are gang free, we come up against the same set of fundamental problems. The greater issue of no work and dysfunctional schools always emerges. Even if after great effort the police authorities clear an area of gangs, we can't keep it clear if there aren't any easy to understand alternatives for young people. Young men must be kept busy in self-esteem generating activity that leads to financial independence and good citizenship. Every society has faced the same issue. Even Alexander the Great worried that his Macedonian warriors would fight and feud amongst themselves if he didn't keep them occupied conquering foreign lands.

A lot of thinkers don't like Hayden's approach because he stresses the responsibility of society in the formation of the gang problem. Whether society accepts this blame doesn't worry me, as we all have common cause to change the conditions that create a vacuum filled by gangs.
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By Amazon Customer on March 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
He liked it and he keeps reading it. He has something that he learned form and also ask question to me, as I am mention in the book.
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By Shamara Boines on November 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is worth reading, if you have not read the book you definitely should even if you are not in school which I am it still has great aspects in it.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Farouk on August 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is less about the problem of gang violence and more about Tom Haydens contributions to the effort. Most of the book is a self-congratulatory pat on the back. Hayden spends much of his time arguing as to why we have failed to prevent this problem, yet he offers no concrete solutions. Furthermore, he refused to even acknowledge that law enforcement does have a part to play whether we like it or not.

If you want to read about Haydens personal experience then this book is good, but if your looking for answers then you came to the wrong place.
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