From Publishers Weekly
Hagedorn (People and Folks
), a scholar of gangland culture for more than 20 years, contends that gangs have existed since the Roman Republic and will continue to thrive as long as globalization continues to create untenable situations for the urban poor. Hagedorn surveys street gangs from Mumbai, Paris, L.A., Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and 15th-century Florence, examining the role race and ethnicity play in gang formation (the white Gaylords of Chicago, the Latin Kings) and how the gang itself can be regarded as an alternative social institution, providing protection and economic opportunities for neglected populations. Hagedorn's description of gangs as institutionalized living organisms explains why they are so difficult to eradicate. Although Hagedorn is an undeniable authority on the topic and has logged plenty of face time with gang members, his work relies rather heavily on analyzing academic studies as opposed to providing in-depth descriptions of his own firsthand observations. His focus on old school gangsta rap also reveals a slight disconnect from his youthful subjects, as he refers to passé artists such as Cypress Hill as popular modern-day performers. While Hagedorn has produced a well-organized, well-researched and sensitive study, readers hungry for more ethnographic accounts should turn to Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day
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About the Author
John M. Hagedorn is associate professor of criminal justice and senior research fellow at Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is editor of Gangs in the Global City; co-editor of Female Gangs in America: Essays on Girls, Gangs, and Gender; and author of the highly influential People and Folks: Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City.
MacArthur fellow Mike Davis is professor of history at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of many books, including Planet of Slums, City of Quartz, and Ecology of Fear.