The Other America: Poverty in the United Statesby Michael Harrington
In the fifty years since it was published, The Other America has been established as a seminal work of sociology. This anniversary edition includes Michael Harrington’s essays on poverty in the 1970s and ’80s as well as a new introduction by Harrington’s biographer, Maurice Isserman. This illuminating, profoundly moving classic is still all too relevant for today’s America.
When Michael Harrington’s masterpiece, The Other America, was first published in 1962, it was hailed as an explosive work and became a galvanizing force for the war on poverty. Harrington shed light on the lives of the poor—from farm to city—and the social forces that relegated them to their difficult situations. He was determined to make poverty in the United States visible and his observations and analyses have had a profound effect on our country, radically changing how we view the poor and the policies we employ to help them.
“Mike Harrington has made more Americans more uncomfortable for more good reasons than any other person I know. For most people, that would be achievement enough. But for Mike it was only the beginning—because the more he saw that was wrong with America, the harder he fought to make it right.” –Senator Edward Kennedy
The Other America is a “scream of rage, a call to conscience.” –The New York Times Book Review
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Meet the Author
Born in Missouri in 1928, Michael Harrington was a writer, political activist, theorist, professor, commentator, and founding member of the Democratic Socialists of America. During his time as editor for New America, he wrote his seminal text The Other America: Poverty in the United States, a bestseller that has been credited for sparking the War on Poverty. A frequent writer, Harrington wrote fifteen books and has had articles publishes in journals such as The New Republic, The Nation, and many others. He married in 1963 and had two children. He died in 1989.
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I read this book in just 3 days and I enjoyed every minute of it. Michael Harrington looks at poverty from a direct, sociological point of view. This book ignited the fire for the the 'war on poverty,' but unfortunately we are losing that war as a country. I feel a great deal amount of compassion for the less fortunate in our country and I believe that it is everyone's duty to help our fellow mankind. This is a must read for every American. It exposes the 'Other America' that our politicians and the media does not want us to know about.
Well written, organised, and insightful, Harrington exposes an array of the matters of poverty in America, developing and analysing each concept, while calling at the same time for action to be taken against this appalling issue of our nation. Beyond the surface of the poor, he delves into the psychology of poverty in the United States, that poverty is not just a matter of not affording fine things, but an actual impediment to the well being of those who have had the misfortune of being born poor, or to have come across hard times. He analyses the facts of poverty, and dispenses the myths surrounding it. The facts of the seriousness are exposed, and how the pulling oneself up by the "boot straps" rhetoric is thoroughly false. The book identifies the manifestations of poverty in all its variety, from racial discrimination, to disadvantage for the elderly, to technological uselessness of old skills, to unemployment, to alcoholism. Poverty is demonstrated as not something most people can easily avoid or overcome, as it manifests in one's home town, in one's lack of education, lack of skills (sometimes due to such lack of education), and age and race. Furthermore the book is organised into clear cut chapters and sub chapters and a recapitulation at the end, in depth yet to the point in a very readable and logical structure. The only critique that I would give to the book is its solutions to the issue of poverty. The poor cannot be helped from above, nor will those above ever give up any of their hoarded wealth, and although the book does note the importance of union organising, it fails to recognise the full potential of the working class. Ultimately, however, this is an excellent book, which I would recommend to all who are interested in the struggle of the poor and of the working classes. For readers who are interesting in matters of the poor and the working class, I'd also recommend Michael Moore's film "Capitalism: A Love Story".