Poverty in Post-Industrialism From a historical perspective, societies tend to be dynamic. A society at a post-industrial stage is one that is at a stage where the economy is transforming from providing and producing materials to now offering crucial services. An industrial society is one that is characterized by large investments in textiles, construction, milling plants, and many people in the service industry work as teachers, lawyers, doctors and retail sector (Charlotta, Florida, and Rentfrow 31). Post industrialism is characterized by advanced use of technology, information and data use and provision of services that are more crucial than the manufacture and production of various goods.
It is important to first highlight the timelines that led to the development of post-industrialism. Post-industrial societies developed after the industrialized societies at a time when goods were being produced in large quantities using machines. Post-industrialism is evident in several European countries, the United States and Japan (Barbrook 8). Post-industrialism is highly transformative not only alters the way the economy is run but also the entire society.
Post-industrialism is characterized by changes in the social, political, and economic lives of the society. The key economic characteristics of a post-industrial society include declined production of goods and increased services, replacement of blue collar jobs with technical and professional jobs, societal shift from practical knowledge to theoretical knowledge, focus on new technologies and increased need for college educated graduates (Barbrook 8). From a social perspective, the definitive issues include increased social stratification and the development of social classes, increased gap between the wealthy and the poor, issues of gender equality, increased feminism movements, racism, issues of human rights, and also the emergence of a strong middle class. Politically, the people become more politically aware of the need for good governance. These are emerging issues that were previously absent in the industrial society (Charlotta, Florida, and Rentfrow 34). At this point, the members of the society have increased awareness of the available opportunities, their rights, responsibilities and obligations as members of particular communities.
The main difference between an industrial and post-industrial society is mainly labor. Industrial societies are more focused on the provision and use of physical labor while post-industrial societies are less intensive. Also important is that industrial societies focus on the production of large volumes of products while post-industrial societies focus on quality, varieties and affordability (Charlotta, Florida, and Rentfrow 33). Therefore, for a person to be able to succeed in a post-industrial society, they must be able to identify and cut their own niche. This means that they must be creative and provide products and services that others cannot provide. Jobs that can be automated can be converted into computer programs while those that are redundant will be run by machines (Charlotta, Florida, and Rentfrow 33). Post-industrialism is indeed an age where the society is fully transformed socially, economically and technologically.
Today, markers of the existence of a post-industrial society are evident all over. Issues such as social exclusion and ethnic diversity in workplaces are evident. Disability which was an issue considered as a factor of social inclusion is now a factor of exclusion (Barbrook 56). In this study, focus will mainly be on poverty and its existence in a post-industrial society. It will also be analysed from the course readings.
Claim Sudhir Venkatesh’s novel “The Gang Leader for a Day” is about poverty as a result of social discrimination. The people with whom Sudhir comes into contact with are extremely poor to an extent that they can barely afford their most basic needs. Poverty is not an issue confined to certain cultures and races but rather an economic issue that can be resolved.
From the novel, almost all the people in Taylor Holmes are poor. They can barely afford even the most basic needs including food, clean water, and clothing. The problem is deeply entrenched into the community. In the American society, there has been a narrative that poverty was a cultural problem and it was for this reason why many black people were poor. Black people are underserved compared to their white counterparts in terms of the provision of social amenities such as security, health services, among others. However, Sudhir is able to determine that poverty is not a choice. A solution to the problem would be to ensure inclusivity among all cultures. People living in Robert Taylor Homes are most of the times compelled to survive with what they have. To an outsider, this may look like a choice but it is the situation that they have been forced into.
Despite the fact that the black community seems to have been impoverished not by choice but as a result of social exclusion, isn’t engaging in crime through organized gangs a choice? Education is viewed as the most effective way of eliminating poverty. However, between education and survival, what is more important for the poor African American families?
Sudhir Venkatesh’s novel “The Gang Leader for a Day” shows that among African Americans is as result of government neglect and need for survival. The need to survive overrides the desire to get an education and it is for this reason that many poor young men end up in gangs. Contrary to the perception by the rest of the American society that poverty is a choice by the black community, majority of them are poor because of neglect by the government and negative perception.
Support In the novel “The Gang Leader for a Day”, Sudhir encounters the depth of the poverty being experienced by African Americans. He interacts closely with gangs and their leaders and the members if the Robert Taylor Homes community. While in interacting with these people, he learns that the main problem facing the neighbourhood are criminal gangs and extreme poverty. These are not problems that emanate solely from within the society but also due to the need for survival and neglect and poor response by the authorities (Charles 205). The hardships experienced by the black community are evident. Sudhir (5) explains how it is like to live in the neighbourhood. People engage in illegitimate businesses such as underground trading to supplement their meagre earnings.
“From off-the-books day care and domestic work to pimping and prostitution, unreported earnings wove together the social fabric in Maquis Park and surrounding poor neighborhoods” (Sudhir 5).
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“From off-the-books day care and domestic work to pimping and prostitution, unreported earnings wove together the social fabric in Maquis Park and surrounding poor neighborhoods” (Sudhir 5). Almost the entire community has come to accept that this is the only way to survive.
The African American community has been neglected and left on its own to take care of themselves. This is seen through Big Cat who is a prominent member of the community. He runs various businesses and also solves disputes when they arise. He was an ideal deal maker who could get you anything in a matter of hours including guns, signing contracts at a fee, prostitutes among other things. Besides Big Cat, there are other individuals and gangs that have taken over the control of car parks, alleys and even operated loan shops. Considering the economic situation and the abject poverty that the community has been subjected to, they cannot resist engaging in illegal business.
As Sudhir (6) indicates, “They cannot resist the opportunity for immediate cash to supplement their legitimate earnings”.
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As Sudhir (6) indicates, “They cannot resist the opportunity for immediate cash to supplement their legitimate earnings”. Those with spaces rent them out to criminal gangs to conduct their businesses. Many of them have also come up with different hustling schemes in order to avoid reporting their income. In some circumstances, some conduct barter trade to avoid incurring any form of taxable income.
Big Cat was a gang leader and often in the meetings he would describe his gang as a nation within a city. Members of his family including his uncles and cousins were also members of the gang. Having grown up without any family and being moved from house to house, he considered the ‘Black Kings’ gang as his family. The gang engaged in illegal businesses, was used by politicians and terrorized the residents. On West Street, they extorted merchants compelling them to pay monthly fees up to hundreds of dollars to operate in the community (Sudhir 167). According to Clampet‐Lundquist (202), due to the poor relationship that communities have with the police, they have choice to accept the fact that the gang was their problem and they had to live with it.
It is not all people in the community who participate in these illegalities that are bad people. It is mostly for necessity and survival. Sudhir (8) questions the role of the law enforcement officers in pushing the community to this level of anarchy. There are rogue police officers who blatantly disregard the law and act in impunity.
The author raises the question, “How does one judge the police officer who mediates a violent contractual dispute with backroom diplomacy, where otherwise a formal attempted murder or assault charge might have been levied on one or both parties?” (Sudhir 8).
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The author raises the question, “How does one judge the police officer who mediates a violent contractual dispute with backroom diplomacy, where otherwise a formal attempted murder or assault charge might have been levied on one or both parties?” (Sudhir 8). The community does what it has to do to survive. It is for this reason why underground businesses have prevailed.
Poverty and hardships are not just reserved to the poor black people in the hood. Even the most prosperous African Americans have been segregated and failed by the city’s institutions. It was a result of the neglect and inconsideration that the alternative underground economy emerged.
Sidhur (18) indicates that even though black people were left to do the blue collar jobs, “there were not enough jobs available for black job seekers”.
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Sidhur (18) indicates that even though black people were left to do the blue collar jobs, “there were not enough jobs available for black job seekers”. As a result, they were compelled to take up menial jobs as janitors, cleaners, waiters, among other general laborer’s jobs.
Poverty among the black community was propelled by widespread discrimination by the white community.
Sidhur (18) states, “Whites would not hire black contractors for home repair, but they would turn to black women for domestic help, housecleaning, and child care, and they typically paid them under the table”.
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Sidhur (18) states, “Whites would not hire black contractors for home repair, but they would turn to black women for domestic help, housecleaning, and child care, and they typically paid them under the table”. For this reason among others black men turned to loans from sharks and engaging in illegal businesses.
In his encounter with three women, Eunice, Marlene and Bird, Sidhur (22) experiences the disparity that exists in the society. Bird earns her living working as a prostitute. Eunice is a cleaner and also supplements her income by selling food during the lunch hour. Marlene works in the service industry but also supplements her income by working as a nanny for a white family who pays her 9 dollars an hour.
They all have different views on religion and the gangs.
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They all have different views on religion and the gangs. From among the women that Sidhur came across, he concluded that not all those who work in the underground businesses are the same. There are those who work in legitimate businesses such as Marlene for the white middle class and then there are those who work in illegal trade such as bird who besides trading her body also traffics narcotics.
Despite the hardships being experienced by this society, we encounter a community that is determined to help each other survive.
Sidhur (27) indicates that “the clergy are important brokers of jobs for domestic workers”.
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Sidhur (27) indicates that “the clergy are important brokers of jobs for domestic workers”. The churches in Maquis Park helped their members get nice white families, for whom they could work for. In return, they pay a certain percentage of their income to the churches. For instance, Maquis Park had about 19 pastors providing these services. The women were moved from one family to the other and this way the pastors would be assured that their brokerage business would continue to exist.
In his encounter with James Arleander who worked as a mechanic, Sidhur (167) explains the hardships that underground workers encountered each day. First, their businesses were considered illegal and therefore the police were always involved. He would either be forced to pay or hide from them. Besides, the police the community was also a problem as one would also be forced to act in way that they do not annoy their competitors. Obtaining parts to repair the cars was also a major problem. To protect them from theft, one also has to hide them safely. Operating in such an environment was really hard.
From the study, it is indeed clear Sudhir Venkatesh’s novel “The Gang Leader for a Day” explicitly shows the hardships that the African American community encountered due to abandonment and discrimination. Young men cannot find decent work and they end up in gangs such as the ‘Black Kings’. Women on the other hand can barely find good jobs and they end up in prostitution and trafficking. Those who desire to live legitimate lives face extreme difficulties which only make their lives harder.
Works Cited Barbrook, Richard. Imaginary futures: from thinking machines to the global village.
Pluto Press, 2007. Charles, Camille Zubrinsky. “Gang leader for a day:
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Pluto Press, 2007. Charles, Camille Zubrinsky. “Gang leader for a day: A rogue sociologist takes to the streets.” Sociological Forum. Vol. 24. No. 1. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2009.
Clampet‐Lundquist, Susan. “Gang Leader for a Day:
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Clampet‐Lundquist, Susan. “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets.” Sociological Forum. Vol. 24. No. 1. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2009. Mellander, Charlotta, Richard Florida, and Jason Rentfrow. “The creative class, post-industrialism and the happiness of nations.” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 5.1 (2011): 31-43.
Venkatesh, Sudhir Alladi. Gang leader for a day: A rogue sociologist takes to the streets. Penguin, 2008.

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