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Street Addicts in the Political Economy

Street Addicts in the Political Economy

Alisse Waterston
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Street Addicts in the Political Economy
    Book Description:

    In this book, Alisse Waterston reveals the economic, political, and ideological forces that shape the nature of street-addict life. Disputing the view that hard-core, low-income drug users are social marginals situated in deviant subcultures, the author dispels popular images of the mythic, dark dope fiend haunting our city streets. Using dramatic, first-person accounts from New York City addicts, Waterston analyzes their position in the social structure, the kind of work -- both legal and illegal -- they perform, and their relations with family, friends, and lovers. She presents a moving account of daily life from the addict's point of view and demonstrates how addicts are structurally vulnerable to the larger sociocultural system within which they live.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0416-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. CHAPTER I Toward a Political Economy of Drugs
    (pp. 1-37)

    The prevailing social-science perspective on street drug abuse derives from an empiricist paradigm that has shaped the nature of research findings and analysis. As noted by its critics, this distinctly Western approach to social research has serious flaws. In declaring the poverty of empiricism, Robin Blackburn says, “The assumption that there exists a realm of facts independent of theories which establish their meaning is fundamentally unscientific” (1973:10) In fact, the purpose and procedure of science is to question the readily apparent and disclose what was before unknown: “Science proceeds by challenging the deceptive obviousness of everyday observation and common sense...

  6. CHAPTER II Homelessness and City Shelters
    (pp. 38-71)

    A walking tour of the Lower East Side north of Houston Street leads one through a maze of poorly maintained tenements, newly gentrified co-ops, empty lots turned into neighborhood gardens and community plazas, buildings put in various states of repair by city-approved homesteaders, abandoned structures, and large illegal squatter tents with banners that proclaim Gentry Out! The tour may also lead to the geographic periphery of the Lower East Side, where hundreds of homeless people sleep in dreary and dangerous city-owned shelters. There are striking contrasts between the center of the east side, sometimes referred to as the “East Village”...

  7. CHAPTER III Making a Living
    (pp. 72-123)

    With but a few exceptions, the East Side’s street addicts have seen little in the way of reward or satisfaction in their efforts at working “legitimate” jobs. Ralph, a local handyman, began with part-time employment as a teenager. His first work experience was through a special city program for youth—summer jobs he held for a couple of years.

    Another year Ralph worked as a counterman at Schraffts, and then he became a stockboy at Whelan’s drug store. Though he barely remembers those jobs, he spent more than a decade working for a glass shop on Avenue D and Fifth...

  8. CHAPTER IV Crime and Punishment
    (pp. 124-156)

    Street people on the Lower East Side are always on the look-out for police. That’s what you have to do, especially if you’re a known addict or prostitute, whether or not you are doing anything illegal. Andrea says they bust her “just for being around … just being a known prostitute.” It’s a real problem, especially when you want to clean up your act. Andrea explains that her new boyfriend has been helping her get off the streets, but the cops keep getting in the way. “Even right to this day, I’m not prostituting for over six months, but I...

  9. CHAPTER V Medical Solutions
    (pp. 157-175)

    Many long-term, hard-core drug users have been treated for their addictions through any of a number of treatment programs. Some have entered just one type of program, but most have tried several. One addict will enter a program to kick drugs once and for all; another may just want to come down from the high dosages, dangerous and expensive, that his body has come to need. “Detox” is popular among those seeking to come down from an expensive high. The treatment involves a weaning off drugs over three weeks. In some cases, detox is helped along by other drugs used...

  10. CHAPTER VI Lovers and Other Strangers
    (pp. 176-228)

    Ralph grew up on the Lower East Side—in the public-housing projects on Avenue D and Third Street. Born in 1949, he says, “The thing I could remember about growing up there is fun, good times. I had a good time when I was growing up.” As Ralph tells it, the early years were the best. He remembers “playing games, and going out with Moms and Pops and, you know, being together. It was, you know, it was only me and my older brother—he’s a year older than me—so it was like the four of us. We used...

  11. CHAPTER VII Drugs, Culture, and Society
    (pp. 229-250)

    It is a wonder to consider all the difficulties with which street addicts contend. No one wakes up one day and decides to become a doper—especially a street junkie. Different drugs have their special appeal, and many addicts use a variety of them. A beginner doesn’t expect to become addicted, although some users say they knew from the start that they’d never pull away. Herbert C., for example, an old-time addict now in his fifties, started mainlining as a teenager. In those days, he and a friend would hang around some local musicians, “And we saw the musicians high,...

  12. APPENDIX Data Sources and Methodology
    (pp. 251-254)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 255-256)
  14. References
    (pp. 257-274)
  15. Index
    (pp. 275-280)