Street Addicts in the Political Economy
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 margins 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. Waterston seeks to connect micro-, or street-level, ethnographic data with macro-level understanding of the political economy. In addition, she attempts to extend social reproduction theory to redefine the social organization and social processes that characterize racial and ethnic relations, gender relations, relations centering on sexuality, and the social conception of drug use and users. Using ethnographic data, Waterston portrays addicts as members of the class of working poor that has emerged in New York City, especially in the past fifteen years. She describes how these people have been displaced by gentrification and the diversity within the group: men, women, black, white, Latino, homosexual, heterosexual, homeless, and housed. Alisse Waterston is Research Associate at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University. She is currently Visiting Associate Professor in the Graduate Faculty in Sociology at the New School for Social Research.