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July 1, 2008 / C H Thompson

Charles Murray and the underclass

The sociological concept of underclass is a relatively new. As group the underclass are those people who due to lack of employment, skills, income, wealth or property appear to stand outside ordinary society.

It can be argued the underclass are those who have become surplus to a globalised economy because production can be moved anywhere in the world where unskilled labour is cheapest.

American Sociologist Charles Murray (new right theorist) who viewed ‘excessive’ state welfare payments as creating a dependency culture who don’t want to work and there’s your underclass. For Murray social welfare (social security as it was once known) started out as a safety-net for people when hit with hard-time, but has become hijacked by a group of people with no intention of working.

Charles Murray visited the UK in 1989 and said it has a developing underclass.

Murray said: “the underclass are defined by their behaviour. Their homes are littered and unkempt. The men in the family are unable to hold down a job. Drunkenness is common. The children grew up ill-schooled and ill-behaved and contribute to a disproportionate share of juvenile delinquents”

Murray saw underclass as behaviour a lifestyle choice, a disease which infects people who share many of the following characteristics (female headed lone parents, out-of-wedlock-births, school drop-outs, violent and criminal).

Much of these characteristics are evident in newspaper reports – Daily Mail.


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