Anderson on Code adherence as a protective front, not always deeply held conviction

In Elijah Anderson’s rebuttal to Wiquant’s Marxist critique of Anderson’s published research  he suggests that for many living in Code of the Street typical communities adherence to the Code of the Street may be less deterministic and unconscious than a consciously adopted  protective “front” that they code switch in and out of depending on the degree of perceived threat.

“…the “street” code embraced by “rebels” is often a protective front for many, if not most people of the inner city, that it is not always a sincere commitment, but a necessary self-presentation in a dangerous public environment, one that may be balanced by “code switching” to civil behavior when safety is not at issue.”  [p. 5535  or  p. 3 of PDF]

Anderson also says….

Most people identify themselves as “decent,” but in the interest of deterrence, especially when danger and uncertainty loom, it often becomes important for individuals “to know what time it is,” and to be perceived as more “street” than “decent” and to act accordingly; a premium is placed on being able to read public situations and then to “code switch” when appropriate. Hence, public behavior in the inner-city ghetto is quite fluid and depends largely on how people interpret and define public situations in the interest of effectively managing them. [p. 5534  or  p. 2 of PDF]

Anderson, E. “The Ideologically Driven Critique”  American Journal of Sociology 107 Number 6 (May 2002): 1533–50

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *