In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio

Philippe Bourgois’ book In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio reveals a number of important problems which disturb the contemporary American society. In this respect, the problem of the inner city and marginalization of the local population is probably one of the most serious challenges to the contemporary society because people living in the inner city and representing ethnic minorities, such as Latin Americans, live in isolation from the society.

In their search of ways of integration in the American society, these marginalized people often use violence as the means of the achievement of their goals. In fact, the author argues that inhabitants of the inner city often tend to self-destruction or destruction of other people either through crimes or consumption of drugs or in other ways, which are the characteristic of marginalized groups living in the inner city. At the same, the author underlines that all these destructive trends are caused by poverty which affects the life of people living in the inner city and he warns about a great social danger of the ignoring of attempts of these people to get integrated into the normal social life.

Hence, the author is very critical in regard to existing policies and solutions of the problem of the inner city.

The author’s view on the problem of the inner city and his focus on the destructive trends he witnessed in the Latin American community in New York are quite persuasive since the author relies on his personal experience. To put it more precisely, he witnessed the life of Latin Americans in the inner city and could reveal the extent to which crime, violence and offense became a norm of the life of the local population. In his book, he argues that it is impossible to ignore the problem of the inner city anymore, because the self-destructive trends, which can be observed now, can be potentially redirected onto those who live outside, i.e. on the rest of the American society, which prefer to ignore the problem rather than to solve it.

In order to prove his position and to show the American society that the life in the inner city is unbearable since local population turns to be in a complete isolation and people have to solve the problem of survival being on their own, without any external assistance, Bourgois conducts a field research. He spent more than three years living in the Latin American community in New York City’s Spanish Harlem. He witnessed the drug trafficking, crimes and the lack of any control or legal norms which could regulate the life of local people. Instead, they lived in accordance to the laws of the streets. In such a way, Bourgois draws probably the most reliable evidence, an eyewitness evidence based on the personal experience of the author. At the same time, this evidence can be quite subjective, though the fact of crimes that rule in the inner city is obvious. All these destructive processes are in the focus of his attention. He researched the life of drug dealers and the local community to show the real life of the inner city.

Eventually, he managed to create a well-structured book, where he conveys all his observations in a logical order and makes his conclusions revealing the essence of the problem of the inner city. Obviously, the book is a warning to the American society and appeal to political powers which should start solving the problem of the inner city immediately.

Thus, the thesis of the review of the book can be as follows: the inner city is susceptible to self-destructive trends which result in the dominance of crime over the law, but these destructive trends can turn against the American authorities and American society, who ignore the problem of the inner city at the moment, while its solution is vitally important for the entire society.


  1. What is the main problem raised by the author in the book?
  2. What are causes of the problem?
  3. What solutions of the problem have already being implemented? Were they successful?
  4. What steps should be undertaken to solve the problem, according to Bourgois?

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