A People's History of Poverty in America

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(333)

Stephen Pimpare, The New Press, £17.99

More than 2.5 million Americans lost their jobs last year, spreading fear of a return to the "hungry thirties" across the working class. In an attempt to deflect attention from their own failures, our rulers have urgently attempted to recreate a distinction between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor.

This book will be a useful resource for anyone who wants to dispute their logic. It tells the story of how the richest country in the world has, since its inception, held a swathe of its citizens in a state of poverty, and how welfare and charity have been used as ideological weapons against them.

The chapter on the relationship between the extreme poverty of white workers and farmers in the Deep South and its connection to the continuation of slavery after the Civil War is particularly well argued and concludes that the white poor were themselves economically damaged by racism.

Another excellent feature of the book is the way it explores patterns of self-help and community resistance to poverty. Pimpare is more than happy to allow people to speak for themselves, and much of the text is made up of testimonies taken over a 200 year period.

Taken together, they explain how little has changed in the callous attitudes of the rich, and how poor people still refuse to be demonised.