Monday, April 16, 2007

Sudhir Venkatesh's New Book On "The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor"

Sudhir Venkatesh has just published a book that I'm very interested in reading. In this month's edition of Reason Magazine, Kerry Howley discusses "Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor". Howley seems to be using Venkatesh's book as proof that what poor people really need is to be allowed to engage in what he calls "ghetto capitalism" without the presence of a government that sets minimum wages and licensure requirements.

I don't agree with his conclusions. They go beyond what Venkatesh's book claims and in doing so, Howley's article transforms a fairly interesting book review into a pro-free-market editorial. What interests me is how Venkatesh documents the survival strategies used by the people of Maquis Park.

Last month, Brownfemipower spoke about people with disabilities growing up in economically disadvantaged areas and it made me think about my own experiences and those I witnessed during my stint as a pharmacy technician. Venkatesh spent eight years studying the Maquis park neighborhood but he was still an outsider looking in. I'm curious about how he interpreted what he witnessed and what he focused on the most. If anyone has read this book, I'd love to whether you enjoyed it or not.

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