Re: Bell curve

Mon, 21 Nov 1994 19:43:17 -0500

>From rca2t Mon Nov 21 19:32:04 1994
Subject: Re: Bell curve
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 1994 19:32:04 -0500 (EST)
In-Reply-To: <199411212230.RAA54751@faraday.clas.Virginia.EDU> from "Anthro-l Listowners & JWA Editors" at Nov 21, 94 03:47:36 pm
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> Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, it is
> imperative to understand that "The Contract for
> America" is buttressed by exceedingly pernicious and
> incendiary research funded by an organization that
> blatantly promotes racism and nativism.

Whether or not Republicans buy Murray's theories, their welfare reform
platform should not be judged on the basis of a supposed logical
connection between the cryptoeugenics of Murray, et al. Welfare reform
as I understand it could just as easily be "buttressed" by Pierre
Bourdieu. The argument behind it--valid or not--is that welfare is a
short-term solution to poverty with longterm negative consequences.
Those long-term consequences result from the creation of a *habitus* of
poverty, from which there is not incentive to use traditional,
capitalistic means of escape. It pays more to recieve welfare that to
work at McDonald's (so the argument goes). It pays not to have a two
parent family. And so on. These arguments can be resolved empirically,
in principle. SO we should be arguing about these.

In any case, when I hear Republicans speak about welfare reform, I hear
arguments about the ineffectiveness of welfare reform to eliminate
poverty, not because it is impossible to elevate the poor--as Murray's
argument seems to say at its worst--but because welfare is not designed
to eliminate poverty. It is designed to make poverty tolerable but
nothing more.

It is worth assessing the actual social effect that government programs
have had and can have. It is too easy to call Republicans racist and
not discuss the issues. As anthropologists, we should be doing the kind
of work that would serve as the foundation for effective social policy,
and not succumb to what is all too often the politics of guilt and envy
(to match the rightist politics of hate).

Raf Alvarado
Anthropology at Virginia

Raf Alvarado
Anthropology at Virginia
UVa ITC Micro Consultant