Culture as Human Capital: Methodological and Policy Implications
Rhonda M. Williams
Contemporary neoconservative debate has rejuvenated a broad-based interest in the analysis of the nature, causes, and consequences of poverty in capitalist society. This dialogue's development has also provided fertile ground for a renewed exchange between economists and social theorists regarding the continued presence of the long-term poor. Both orthodox (neoclassical) economists and neoconservatives advance visions of modern social life that characterize poverty as the consequence of the poor's moral and cultural failings. Accordingly, they vociferously argue that endemic cultural traits are a primary cause of the racial and ethnic distribution of economic well-being, including the racial composition of the so-called underclass. Although nineteenth-century hereditary Social Darwinism has lost much of its intellectual credibility, the void created by its demise has been partially filled by the emergence of a "New Darwinism," according to which possession of the right cultural attributes is sufficient to guarantee material success.1
This chapter first appeared in Praxis International ( July 1987), Center for European Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.