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Customer Review

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving between Structure and Culture, September 1, 2009
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This review is from: More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (Issues of Our Time) (Hardcover)
Wilson's pithy volume, part of Henry Louis Gates's Issues of Our Time series with Norton, presents a critical synopsis of the great debates in urban sociology over the past fifty years. *More than Just Race* considers how sociologists from Elliot Liebow to Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh have tarried with the question of urban poverty. In reflecting on these different perspectives, Wilson presents an illuminating narrative about one of the most charged areas of American public policy.

One of the book's notable strengths is the extraordinary breadth of sociological knowledge Wilson displays in his writing. Wilson's survey of urban sociology bespeaks years of research and work in the field, though his prose remains accessible and engaging. Further, by organizing the book into three interrelated chapters -- on how poverty affects 1) urban space; 2) young black men; and 3) black families/single black mothers -- Wilson presents the sociological literature in a clear, theme-oriented manner. His chapter on black families and the Moynihan Report is especially well-composed.

The book's other great virtue is that it condenses the longstanding debate scholars and policy-makers have had in determining the role structural inequalities and cultural variables play in the persistence of urban poverty. Seeing the merits of both sides of the debate, Wilson believes the problem is best understood as an amalgam of institutional and cultural factors. Although Wilson makes this particular point in a somewhat repetitive fashion, the overall effect of his argument is edifying: it moves beyond putatively "liberal" and "conservative" positions in the urban poverty debate to outline a synthetic view of the everyday realities of inner-city life.
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