Code of the Street:
Decency. Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City
Elija Anderson
ISBN 0393320782
$14.95 / paperback
W. W. Norton

Social Science / African-American Studies

Inner-city black America is often stereotyped as a place of random violence, but in fact, violence in the inner city is regulated through an informal but well-known code of the street.  This unwritten set of rules—based largely on an individual’s ability to command respect—is a powerful and pervasive form of etiquette, governing the way in which people learn to negotiate public spaces.  Elijah Anderson’s incisive book delineates the code and examines it as a response to the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, to the stigma of race, to rampant drug use, to alienation and lack of hope.  According to Cornel West “…this is the best treatment we have of the tormented inner life of young people wrestling with nihilism in a society indifferent to their plight and predicament.”  As one may surmise from reading the code of the Street, it is indeed time that the privileged sectors of our society took an interest in helping to alleviate inner-city conditions.  Anderson’s work provides insights for creative intervention in inner-city life by those who hope for a more humane society.