This is supposedly one of the poorest and diverse neighborhoods in the entire American history and gave Philip the chance to observe from close, the hardships and cultures of these people. Most of the youth, a majority of them being Afro-Americans, Puerto Ricans or other Hispanics, had no proper education owing to poverty and hence took to selling drugs as a means of expressing themselves. The author, having observed them very closely, explains the reasons in a succinct manner. The people of El Barrio had no option but to sell drugs as the socio-economic difference between the rich and poor widened leading to the poor becoming poorer and the rich getting richer and selling drugs was a way of letting the frustration out more than anything else. Social unacceptability, poverty and lack of education, lack of jobs drove the youth to drugs which was what they had seen growing up as kids, even as the Italian Mafia faded away leaving behind a strong mark(page 76). For this community, selling drugs was a way of telling the world they too had a life of their own. It didn't matter if it was legal or illegal because the government in their eyes was non-existent. It was all about surviving and making money whatever way possible and this was the trade they had seen and excelled. Without money, no proper education could be given. Likewise, without proper education there was no social acceptability and this resulted in a frustrated community searching for means to be treated on par with other communities. Most of them had deep hatred for other communities. The book gives clear descriptions of the conversations the author has, with "Caesar" who is content admitting he is a racist and Primo who is more of a liberal guy. Unlike the popular opinion, that drugs was the root cause of all their problems, this study by Philippe Bourgois proves that poverty is the main cause of all maladies (page 319) and that it's left to the Government to reassess it's policies and look at options other than incarceration, to curb this evil.
Oscar Lewis's reasoning on culture of poverty is valid to a large extent when Philippe Bourgois's study is combined. The article states that poverty becomes a culture at a certain point for many people and hence these people continue to lead the same lives for generations. The feeling that they are inferior to all others and the resulting helplessness is not because they are poor but, because of the lack of proper vision and guidance. Out of this feeling arises poverty and inhibited participation in the larger economic system. In this context, the poor people of Harlem Street can be considered to be part of the culture of poverty. Selling of drugs has been there for decades and continues to be there despite new laws and changes in policies. Lack of basic amenities hinders the thought process and they are forced to think about their problems and their present life. A plan for the future is rarely made in this culture and as a result, they believe they are destined to be there and hardly ever make an effort to get out of this psychological maze. However participation in unions and similar congregations might help them get out of the mindset a bit.