Mical Raz, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician and historian of medicine. She is author of The Lobotomy Letters: The Making of American Psychosurgery. Her new book is What's Wrong with the Poor?: Psychiatry, Race, and the War on Poverty.
From a Q & A with Raz at her publisher's website:
Q: How has American society explained poverty and how has that history contributed to the narrative of deprivation you explore in this book?The Page 99 Test: What's Wrong with the Poor?.
A: Poverty is often seen as a personal failure, whereas success is a mark of hard work; thus economic status serves a surrogate for individual self-worth, and not an indicator of society's structure and its limitations. Poor men and women are still often portrayed in stereotypical terms as being lazy and unmotivated. Cultural deprivation is an intra-psychic explanation for the cause of poverty, focusing on the myriad of deficits in an individual's life that leads to economic disadvantage--maternal failure, lack of stimulation, lack of appropriate role models. While it does not blame individual girls and boys for their scholastic disadvantage, which further perpetuates the "cycle of poverty," it does blame their parents and their home environment. Thus deprivation theory is an example of "blaming the victim" in the discussion of poverty and...[read on]