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The Underclass

In response to:

The Lower Depths from the August 12, 1982 issue

To the Editors:

Andrew Hacker’s review of Ken Auletta’s book The Underclass [NYR, August 12] displays smugness and a misleading lack of vision. It may well be that the poor can do little except “lurk about the streets or hold up a liquor store,” or would prefer to fiddle computers in lieu of committing street crimes, if given the choice. But what Hacker omits entirely from his discussion is the phenomenon of physical violence that so frequently follows the robberies. Too often criminals are no longer content with the handbag, wallet and watch surrendered at gunpoint. Victimization studies clearly show the rise in “senseless” violence after robberies or burglaries where victims are beaten, shot, or maimed after the primary mission of the crime has been accomplished. While the theory of relative deprivation or Nietsche’s concept of ressentiment do help explain this new phenomenon, it would have been interesting to hear Hacker’s view on the problem.

Edith E. Flynn

College of Criminal Justice

Northeastern University Boston

Massachusetts

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