[One small housekeeping item:I'll be blogging as Andy Seal here in order to avoid confusion with Andrew Hartman. I truly value informality and collegiality, so I hope that this means we all can just continue using first names, with no last initials needed!]
Over the past few weeks, I have been following quite avidly the recent Ta-Nehisi Coates-Jonathan Chait debate over the “culture of poverty” thesis. It’s a fascinating and exceptionally useful exchange—one can easily imagine it being read some time down the road as a sort of parallel to the Irving Howe-Ralph Ellison exchange of the early 1960s.
What was most remarkable to me about the debate was not so much that it got personal, since that is not such a rare thing, but the interesting way that it got personal. The turning point of the Coates-Chait argument really came about not on a point of fact or even interpretation about the “culture of poverty” thesis, but rather when Chait worried aloud that Coates was “turning” to a “grim fatalism.” Continue reading