The Poor in the Background
IN the beginning of the book, hard‐ core poverty was identified as the critical social phenomenon of our times. Little more on the matter was said at the time, as the narrative shifted to examination of the active components of the economy. In fact, the problem of social transformation was viewed more from the perspective of the affluent social strata than from that of the poor. There is a reason for ordering things this way. The strong forces in the economy emanate from the activities of what has been labeled the progressive sector; and by default the condition of the poor essentially depends upon the range of the progressive sector and the extent to which this sector excludes or permits the participation of the poor. As we have seen, the strong forces and trends seem to have been building the exclusionary barriers higher and cementing the dualistic structure of the system as a whole. The time has come, however, to shift perspective and examine the barriers from below.
Although the issue of poverty has been successfully sidestepped in conventional politics (if not covered up), the fact of poverty remains; and there is every indication that failure to resolve the poverty problem in the United States would be a turning point of historical significance. The signs are far from optimistic. On the basis of present trends, we cannot dismiss projections of a stagnant economy coupled to a garrison state drawn up on racial and class lines (this, after all, is the pragmatic consequence of the dualism phenomenon). Nor can we have any confidence that the issues, once (again) exposed, can be neatly and effectively resolved by standard politics and policies. The problem is one of political economy in the broadest sense. The analysis must cover technical explanations, the