by John M. Hagedorn
When People and Folks first appeared, William Julius Wilson called it "the most insightful book ever written on inner-city gangs" and "required reading for anyone seeking an understanding of gang activity in our large urban centers." It was also praised by Ron Huff as "a vicarious journey into the underbelly of a rustbelt city, the breeding ground of gangs-Underclass America." This gritty and poignant portrait of gang members has become a major contribution to the academic literature.
The first edition of People and Folks broke new ground, influencing a generation of researchers. This expanded edition also offers provocative new insights into race and class, challenging accepted theories with fresh data from one of the most extensive studies ever undertaken of street gangs in a single city. In particular, Hagedorn questions prevailing assumptions about gang violence, drug use, and the cultural differences between the inner-city "underclass" and the suburban middle classes. Unlike many other gang studies, he explores the nature of gender for both male and female gangs members and examines the differences between male and female gangs.
Another important aspect of People and Folks is its contribution to social science methodology. Hagedorn shows why an accurate picture of street gangs is impossible without going directly to the gangs. People and Folks is a model of "collaborative research" with present and former gang members. An influential new view of gangs emerges from the voices of the gang members themselves, who meet the questions posed by criminology with unexpected, harsh and often moving answers.
What are the reasons for the increase-and recent decrease-in violence and drug use? Do gang youth hold deviant or mainstream values? Have two decades of deindustrialization given birth to a new set of destructive, violent values among the truly disadvantaged. Or are gang members more like "us" than they are different? Are underclass neighborhoods "disorganized," or differently organized, with new illicit jobs taking the place of the lost industry? How are the female gangs different from male gangs, and what do the differences tell us about how to address violence and drug abuse?
Hagedorn answers these questions by going to the gang members themselves, with their voices rising above the mass of new data. With its complex and nuanced picture of gang members and concrete short-term responses for social policy, the new edition of People and Folks may prove as provocative as the first.
Paperback: 299 pages