Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

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There is definitely ethics at work in the gangs and among the tenants. Certainly, the gang leaders have learned the lessons of capitalism, and a pretty unbridled version of capitalism at that. And as with capitalism, there is very limited trickling down. The foot soldiers of the gang make very little money and some of them might work part-time at fast-food joints to supplement their income. What they get in the gang is the prestige of the brand and the franchise and a chance at social promotion that is absent in the larger social structure.

The major trait of living in the project is that constant feeling of being stuck: there is very little social mobility and everyone is very much aware of it. This is an economy of scarcity and a social structure based on deprivation. Now bigger sociology wigs than I am can nitpick.

But I have to confess that I am considering adopting this book for my community college students in my introduction to sociology section. I can deal with the methodological and ethical issues but I think it would show them the relevance of sociology, the difficulties of the research process especially with illegal organizations and dubious social practices , and more generally what sociology is for. Yes, this book brings sociology alive and makes it interesting.

And it does have a humanizing effect when it comes to the poor, minorities, the marginalized of society. The book exposes well what Jeffrey Sachs, in the global context, described as the poverty trap. I wish there were a bit more social theory involved but I can deal with that as well in class. Overall, all the issues that obviously present in the book should not distract from the fact that it is a great read.

It is an imperfect book about an imperfect study but certainly reminiscent of the great tradition of American urban sociology and I think my students should be exposed to it, warts and all. Very compelling pop-sociology book.


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  • If You Want to Observe ’Em, Join ’Em.

Sudhir, a grad student at the University of Chicago manages to befriend a gang dealer in South side Chicago during the late s and early s at the height of the crack epidemic. The book explores the "community" aspect of the projects, underground economy, and creative ways that gang members and non-gang affliated persons in the community interact. While the book does not try to condone a lot of the gang's behavior, it does paint a sympathetic picture of the lack of options afforded to such people.

Basically, this book does feel a lot like a season of "The Wire" minus the cops for the most part , and I don't think that's a bad thing. Sudhir was a sociology student at University of Chicago in when he decided he wanted to study urban poverty. One of the poorest areas in the city was the Robert Taylor Homes, the "projects", which was pretty much run by the Black Kings gang.

Sudhir wandered over one day and somehow managed to get into the good graces of the local BK leader, J. They started up a kind of "friendship" - at least Sudhir seemed mostly welcome to come and often "shadow" J.

Although the project at least initially seemed more like studying gang structure than the poor people who lived there. Either way, over a number of years, Sudhir got an inside view of the BK gang - a rare opportunity for an outsider. This was interesting, and somewhat scary at times, with the violence, drugs and crime that occasionally happened - well, more often than most of us are used to.

The crime and drugs were a daily occurrence, but the BK really tried to keep the violence at bay it scared potential drug customers away, so from a business standpoint, a lack of violence was much more amenable. Overall, very interesting This is a remarkable book, and i am glad that I picked it up. To start with, I am amazed by his courage, and his gumption.

In breaking the rules, I think that he earned a lot. He also learned a lot from the gang leaders he hung around with, though he does not explicitly acknowledge this.

The revelations of different aspects of their lives, as well as their abilities as business men is something that he brings out very well. He does not approve of their life, and this is something that he expresses. I am not sure if he fully appreciated or sympathised with the conditions that brought them to the gangster life.

In the end, he moves on, and they do not. There is a bit of sadness in this, and this comes through at the end. Here at Walmart. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason. Due to the high volume of feedback, we are unable to respond to individual comments. Sorry, but we can't respond to individual comments. Recent searches Clear All.

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Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

You can go to cart and save for later there. Average rating: 4 out of 5 stars, based on 27 reviews 27 reviews. Walmart Tell us if something is incorrect. Book Format: Choose an option. Add to Cart. Product Highlights About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. See our disclaimer. First introduced in "Freakonomics," here is the full story of Sudhir Venkatesh, the sociology graduate student who infiltrated one of Chicago's most notorious gangs.

Examining the morally ambiguous, highly intricate, and often corrupt struggle to survive in an urban war zone, Gang Leader for a Day also tells the story of the complicated friendship that develops between Venkatesh and JT--two young and ambitious men a universe apart.

Venkatesh gives readers a window into a way of life that few Americans understand. Specifications Publisher Penguin Publishing Group. Customer Reviews. Average rating: 4 out of 5 stars, based on 27 reviews 27 ratings. See all reviews.

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