Does America Hate the Poor? The Other American Dilemma: Lessons for the 21st Century from the 1960s and the 1970s

By John E. Tropman | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Images of the Elderly

We have seen how attitudes toward the status poor exist seemingly independently of the conditions one might think would influence them. These negative images serve both as cause and effect: cause of actions toward the poor and the effect of actions toward them. One might call it "reciprocal hatred." We hate because we act; we act because we hate.

It is the purpose of this chapter to explore the attitudes and image of the elders within American society. 1 Similar findings for the status poor emerge: negativism and misperception, sustained in part by the victims themselves.


IMAGES OF THE ELDERLY: NEGATIVE INVERSION

The status poor have not always been hated. They were, for much of Western civilization, venerated. Ideas like Pauperum Christi (the Poor of Christ) expressed the idea that the wealthy were the problem (and as likely to get into the Kingdom of Heaven as through the eye of a needle). About the time of the Reformation, one change that is not often mentioned was the change of the status of the poor. Poverty became inverted. Poverty had been exalted; now it was an occasion of sin. A similar shift, though much more recent, has affected the elderly. They too have experienced status inversion; they too have moved from being loved to hated.

Achenbaum ( 1978), in his hallmark historical study, found both divergencies and uniformities in views toward the elderly. Overall, he found the emer

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Does America Hate the Poor? The Other American Dilemma: Lessons for the 21st Century from the 1960s and the 1970s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Note x
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Part I Who are the Poor, and Does America Hate Them? 1
  • Note 4
  • Chapter 1 How America Hates the Poor 5
  • Conclusion 15
  • Notes 15
  • Chapter 2 Poorfare Culture, Welfare State 17
  • Conclusion 23
  • Part II Pictures in Plenty: Conceptions of the Underclass 25
  • Chapter 3 Laggards and Lushes: Images of the Poor 27
  • Conclusion 43
  • Notes 43
  • Chapter 4 The Decent Poverty Stricken: Images of the Near Poor 45
  • Conclusion 57
  • Chapter 5 The Overseer of the Poor: View from the County Welfare Office 59
  • Conclusion 70
  • Note 71
  • Chapter 6 Mothers: Opinions and Stereotypes 73
  • Conclusion 79
  • Note 80
  • Part III The Life Cycle Poor: Images of the Aged 81
  • Note 83
  • Chapter 7 Images of the Elderly 85
  • Conclusion 91
  • Notes 91
  • Chapter 8 American Culture and the Aged: Stereotypes and Realities 93
  • Conclusion 104
  • Notes 105
  • Chapter 9 What the Public Thinks: Older and Younger Adults 107
  • Conclusion 123
  • Note 123
  • Part IV Why America Hates Poor 125
  • Chapter 10 The Poorfare State: Embodiment and Revelation 129
  • Conclusion 131
  • Chapter 11 Social Exploitation 133
  • Conclusion 142
  • Notes 143
  • Chapter 12: Mirror of Destiny 145
  • Notes 152
  • References 153
  • Bibliography 159
  • Index 169
  • About the Author 173
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