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As the rebellious eldest son of a family of German industrialists, Friedrich Engels was sent in 1842 to Manchester to oversee his father's textile business, and he lived in the city until 1844. Manchester was then at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution. There, he spent spare time talking to the workers and collected data for his first work, which was originally written in German as Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England. That sociological study was first published in Leipzig in 1845. The English edition The Condition of the Working Class in England (authorized by Engels) was published in 1887 in New York and London in 1891.

"... My studies have identified some 70 traits that characterize the culture of poverty. The principal ones may be described in four dimensions of the system: the relationship between the subculture and the larger society; the nature of the slum community; the nature of the family, and the attitudes, values and character structure of the individual. The disengagement, the non-integration, of the poor with respect to the major institutions of society is a crucial element in the culture of poverty. It reflects the combined effect of a variety of factors including poverty, to begin with, but also segregation and discrimination, fear, suspicion and apathy and the development of alternative institutions and procedures in the slum community.

Subota, 15 Maj 2021 10:49

Culture of Poverty by Oscar Lewis

The theory of a culture of poverty was created by the American anthropologist Oscar Lewis in his book, Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty, first published in 1959. This theory states that living in conditions of pervasive poverty will lead to the development of a culture or subculture adapted to those conditions. Lewis uses his famous expression of poverty culture to describe it as the idea that poor people do not learn norms and values that can help them improve their conditions and therefore fall into a repeated pattern of poverty.

A French painter, sculptor, printmaker, newspaper caricaturist, and political satirist Honoré Daumier lived in Paris during troubled political times (the revolutions of 1830 and 1848) and during a time of rapid industrialization and much social unrest. His interest in the French railroad system was based on the fact that this new means of transportation changed the way to move around Paris and the surrounding cities in a dramatic way. Daumier, who also struggled with unemployment at some point in his life, sympathized with the working class and saw them as fellow passengers.

Honoré Daumier's paintings were influenced by rail traveling themes and painted many images on a similar theme since the 1840s. The painting The Third-Class Carriage from 1862 is a depiction of the everyday life of the poor. This painting is one part of a three-part series of paintings by Daumier, including The First-Class Carriage and The Second-Class Carriage. The work can be viewed now at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

After moving to Nuenen in the Brabant region in 1883, Vincent van Gogh was inspired to create a portrait of the working class. On 30 April 1885, he wrote to his brother Theo:

"You see, I really have wanted to make it so people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor and - that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours - civilized people. So I certainly don't want everyone just to admire it or approve of it without knowing why."

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