The idea that Britain, the US and other western societies are witnessing the rise of an underclass of people at the bottom of the social heap, structurally and culturally distinct from traditional patterns of `decent' working-class life, has become increasingly popular in the 1990s. Anti-work, anti-social, and welfare dependent cultures are said to typify this new `dangerous class' and `dangerous youth' are taken as the prime subjects of underclass theories. Debates about the family and single-parenthood, about crime and about unemployment and welfare reforms have all become embroiled in underclass theories which, whilst highly controversial, have had remarkable influence on the politics and policies of governments in Britain and the US,
Youth, the `Underclass' and Social Exclusion constitutes the first concerted attempt to grapple with the underclass idea in relation to contemporary youth. It focuses upon unemployment, training, the labour market, crime, homelessness, and parenting and will be essential reading for students of social policy, sociology and criminology.
Robert MacDonald is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Teesside