Cracks In The Pavement Analysis

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Martin Sanchez-Jankowski’s Cracks in the Pavement (2008) traces the trajectory of social change and resilience in poor neighbourhoods in New York. His ethnographic work lasted nine years, during which he observed five important institutions, i.e. public housing projects, small grocery shops, barbershops and hair salons, gangs, and local high schools. Most of the data collected is through participant/non-participant observation. In his analyses, Sanchez-Jankowski makes a departure from the social disorganization theory of urban poverty which attempts to locate a ‘culture of poverty’ (Oscar Lewis). This theory suggests that the urban poor reproduce poverty over generations, which is seen as disruptive, chaotic and disorganised in the otherwise…show more content…
I felt that some of it was reductive and attempted to draw clear distinctions between the worldviews of the rich and the poor. I will focus instead on his discussion of gangs, which elucidates both the repercussions of state policies on the lives of the urban poor as well as the possible policy implications of an ethnographic study. Instead of viewing gangs as disrupting the functioning of poor neighbourhoods (as is assumed by criminologists), Sanchez-Jankowski stresses on the fact that they are recognized as legitimate in the neighbourhood and contribute to its social structure; thus rendering the fact that they are considered illegitimate in the eyes of the larger society irrelevant. His questions remain: how and when do gangs negatively affect low-income neighbourhoods and when do they help maintain the social fabric of poor neighbourhoods? In social disorganisation theory, there is an attempt to locate the gang as ‘external’ or the ‘other’ which is undesirable and must be eliminated. Sanchez-Jankowski recognizes the gap in such an understanding because he saw the gang as a subjective system which gave residents an understanding of their neighbourhood’s social world, a sense of pride in belonging to their specific social fragment, a greater sense of solidarity within their group, a…show more content…
He discusses the phenomenon of deindustrialisation and how the work opportunity as blue-collared labourers decreased and was replaced by a demand for trained or skilled labour. This was viewed as cumbersome by most of the youth in poor neighbourhoods, who took refuge in gangs who offered them the chance to earn the amount of money necessary to maximize entertainment. This maximisation of excitement as a worldview of people residing in poor neighbourhoods is discussed by Sanchez-Jankowski in his opening chapter wherein attributes the tendency of poor to maximise excitement (as opposed to security in terms of gratification of pleasure) to their belief in an uncertain future. This means that there is a certain search for immediate rewards as opposed to saving or investing for bigger rewards in the future. After the decline of the Italian mafia post 1990’s, the gangs took up the sales and distribution of drugs and organised themselves in hierarchical, business-like structures. Besides deindustrialisation and the subsequent opening up of illegal work opportunities, another macro-level change that Sanchez-Jankowski speaks of is the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Protection Act (STEP) that was passed in California

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