Read Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass by Theodore Dalrymple Online


Here is a searing account-probably the best yet published-of life in the underclass and why it persists as it does. Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychiatrist who treats the poor in a slum hospital and a prison in England, has seemingly seen it all. Yet in listening to and observing his patients, he is continually astonished by the latest twist of depravity that exceeds evHere is a searing account-probably the best yet published-of life in the underclass and why it persists as it does. Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychiatrist who treats the poor in a slum hospital and a prison in England, has seemingly seen it all. Yet in listening to and observing his patients, he is continually astonished by the latest twist of depravity that exceeds even his own considerable experience. Dalrymple's key insight in Life at the Bottom is that long-term poverty is caused not by economics but by a dysfunctional set of values, one that is continually reinforced by an elite culture searching for victims. This culture persuades those at the bottom that they have no responsibility for their actions and are not the molders of their own lives. Drawn from the pages of the cutting-edge political and cultural quarterly City Journal, Dalrymple's book draws upon scores of eye-opening, true-life vignettes that are by turns hilariously funny, chillingly horrifying, and all too revealing-sometimes all at once. And Dalrymple writes in prose that transcends journalism and achieves the quality of literature....

Title : Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
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ISBN : 9781566635059
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 284 Pages
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Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-05-26 17:32

    THE BRITISH UNDERCLASSDalrymple's great subject is the underclass – he's worked with them for years as a doctor in an inner city area and in prisons, he knows what he's talking about, this is a guy I respect, and he's thrusting before our horrified faces the terrible facts of the matter. He sounds like a right wing git half of the time but maybe I'm turning into a right wing git because mostly I think he's got it dead right but sometimes he's just like a slightly more intellectual Jeremy Clarkson who can write well and maybe his books are nothing more than the posh version of Is It Just Me or is Everything ShitWhich is something that makes my flesh crawl - I hate all the jeremiads which pour forth about modern life from every source these days, and all these complainers think we'll wag our bonces and ruefully say "ah how true", oh how they denigrate and carp, the economy, the ecology, the music the kids listen to, the reality shows, the celeb culture, the poxy politicians, the schools, the police, everything according to all these foisters of their own neurotic unhappiness has been on a one way downhill roll into shitness since 1956 when yes of course all was sweetness and pop songs had tunes and we were good, ah, remember when we thought we were good, and there was none of this political correctness and there were hardly any immigrants – oops, what a giveaway! Did I say that? No, you moaning modern-life-is-rubbish demiwolves, you didn't say it but you meant it. Try being anything other than a middle class white guy in 1956, then report back.Oh wait – the moaning demiwolves are all middle class white guys.On the other hand there are lots of things wrong with Britain in 2012. One of them is that there's a swathe of the population who are simply redundant, not required anymore. The underclass. All they do is make their own lives a living hell and break into your house if you leave the smallest window open. And if you run into a gaggle of them on the way home from the pub they just might take it into their heads to kick you to death. In 1956 all these people worked, there was almost no unemployment, imagine that, but now Chinese and Indian people do all the backbreaking factory work in China and India making all our ipods and stuff & so the 20% of the population who can only do factory work [euphemism alert ] have nothing to do except drugs and each other. TD describes the calamitous moral decay of this class of people (you don't need me to recap, Jeremy Kyle and Jerry Springer have done this already)He identifies the underclass as something which has been growing since the 60s, is mostly white and is aided but not caused by the Welfare State. Lack of employment is one thing but the miasma of drug usage, domestic violence, child abuse and all types of crime except those which require brains needs further interrogation. On p 12 he is saying that they are like children who have been encouraged to behave badly by misguided liberal parents. This is a big theme which runs through all of TD's thinking. Liberals took over the way society runs itself and have wrecked it with their ludicrous cuddly notions of being nice to people. They have given the feckless (the sturdy beggars of yesteryear) a loaded gun – now the feckless have realised they are themselves passive victims. TD tells us that when apprehended, all the criminals of the underclass will portray themselves as "Putty in the hands of fate" or "marionettes of happenstance". They never stab someone intentionally, no, they tell you "my head went. The knife went in."Another burglar demanded to know from me why he repeatedly broke into houses and stole VCRs. He asked the question aggressively as if "the system" had so far let him down in not supplying him with the answer, as if it were my duty as a doctor to provide him with the buried psychological secret that, once revealed, would in and of itself lead him unfailingly on the path of virtue. Until then he would continue to break into houses and the blame would be mine.Hark - I hear an old song from West side Story... do you hear it too?Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, You gotta understand, It's just our bringin' up-ke That gets us out of hand. Our mothers all are junkies, Our fathers all are drunks. Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks! Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset; We never had the love that every child oughta get. We ain't no delinquents, We're misunderstood. Deep down inside us there is good! There is good! There is good, there is good, There is untapped good! Like inside, the worst of us is good! TD points the finger at (please, anyone in the caring professions should look away now!)The legions of helpers and carers, social workers and therapists, whose incomes and careers depend crucially on the supposed incapacity of large numbers of people to fend for themselves and behave responsibly. …their entire therapeutic worldview of the patient as the passive, helpless victim of illness legitimises the very behavious from which they are there to redeem him from. … ...the idea has become entrenched that if one does not know or understand the unconscious motives for one's acts, one is not truly responsible for them.Officer Krupke, you're really a square; This boy don't need a judge, he needs an analyst's care! It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed. He's psychologic'ly disturbed! We're disturbed, we're disturbed, We're the most disturbed, Like we're psychologic'ly disturbed. (Spoken) In the opinion of this court, this child is depraved on account he ain't had a normal home. (Spoken) Hey, I'm depraved on account I'm deprived. My father is a bastard, My ma's an S.O.B. My grandpa's always plastered, My grandma pushes tea. My sister wears a mustache, My brother wears a dress. Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess! Also the spectre of the swinging 60s haunts the pages :If anyone wants to see what sexual relations are like, freed of contractual and social obligations, let him look at the chaos of the personal lives of members of the underclass.(note – great American book detailing all the chaos : Random Family)However - there should be a word for someone who wrecks their own arguments by continually overstating them to the point where they sound mad, and TD does this every so often, alas. I won't embarrass him by quoting some of the dafter parts. And also, in the end, while I admit of the awfulness whereof he speaks and the eloquence which makes these essays not only bearable but compelling, he offers absolutely no answers. He's a great diagnostician (is that a word?), and I kind of suspect that if he proposed any solutions they might involve abolishing parliament, appointing a National Salvation Council and setting up Re-education Centres for every social worker. Giving teachers electric cattle prods would probably be part of it too.I recommend TD if like me you're comfortable with despair and you're quite happy to read and weep.

  • notgettingenough
    2019-06-09 17:48

    You see. I’ve had a Dalrymple experience and it was like this. My doctor has his rooms in a Dalrymple part of town. Everybody who goes in looks like they’ve either just come out of a stretch, or they’ve just been sentenced to one…or might even on the run from one. The older women clearly all have sons whom they might even be visiting that very afternoon in the slammer. I’m the only one, I deduce, who has never set foot in gaol. Oh. There is that time I was put in gaol in Slovakia, but I’m not counting that because I wuz innocent. Whereas these people are clearly all guilty. Of something.So a few visits ago I’m sitting, waiting and Jad comes in and sits down next to me. He lopes in, bum half out of jeans and – is that a strangely placed piece of metal…I don’t know Jad. He tells us all he’s Jad as he rather pathetically attempts to wave his hand at us. His wrist is broken. As he explains ‘This guy on the street outside, he calls Lola a slag. I had to defend her onnah.’ Proffered this information I steal a glance at Lola, sitting the other side of here:https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpre...---------------------------------------------Dalrymple on Wikileaks. He is so cool-headed. Of course he is right. actual effect of WikiLeaks is likely to be profound and precisely the opposite of what it supposedly sets out to achieve. Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one. Secrecy, or rather the possibility of secrecy, is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness. WikiLeaks will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be increasingly unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but also in the private sphere, which it works to destroy. An Iron Curtain could descend, not just on Eastern Europe, but over the whole world. A reign of assumed virtue would be imposed, in which people would say only what they do not think and think only what they do not say.It's a totalitarian paradise.But isn't Assange right too: here he is talking about what Wikileaks is all about and interalia, forces us to remember the idealism with which we all start out and now I'm talking about Rupert Murdoch:IN 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s The News, wrote: “In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.”His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch’s expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public. Totalitarian or democratic imperative????? Or is it that these two monoliths, totalitarianism and democracy aren't so very different after all?

  • Rowena
    2019-06-10 15:39

    "If the doctor has a duty to relieve the suffering of his patients, he must have some idea where that suffering comes from, and this involves the retention of judgment, including moral judgment.And if, as far as he can tell in good faith, the misery of his patients derives from the way they live, he has a duty to tell them so—which often involves a more or less explicit condemnation of their way of life as completely incompatible with a satisfying existence. By avoiding the issue, the doctor is not being kind to his patients; he is being cowardly. Moreover, by refusing to place the onus on the patients to improve their lot, he is likely to mislead them into supposing that he has some purely technical or pharmacological answer to their problems, thus helping to perpetuate them."- Theodore Dalrymple, Life at the BottomTheodore Dalrymple, a retired British psychiatrist, who has spent years working with the underclass is a very keen observer of human nature, as is evidenced by this book. His dealings with thousands of these people at close quarters gave him much of the fodder for his thesis which is, I’m sure that some will disagree, that a lot of poverty is caused by dysfunctional values, values that those in power exploit and make worse by creating a culture of victims. Most of these stories and anecdotes are from Dalrymple’s time working in British slums and prisons.This was a very heavy read and I’m still thinking about it weeks after I read it. There are things discussed that seem so foreign to me because I’ve never had to deal with them, and it’s upsetting that so many do. I learned interesting points around education, literature, the violence in the British culture, the housing, and how often people in need aren’t helped enough because they aren’t tragic enough. It was eye-opening and there is a lot of pain in this book, and so much raises questions.Also, it’s important to know that several of the essays in this book were written in the 90s, so people’s values have changed since then. I obviously didn’t agree with everything Dalrymple stated in the book, and I haven’t lived in the UK for a long time, so there are things I can’t speak to or challenge, even though I really want to.I was surprised when Dalrymple alluded that systemic racism isn’t a thing, but his other points about how we should treat people on a case by case situation, not by their race, was well-taken. Also interesting was how he has worked in African and Latin American countries where he talks about the poverty there but says that the Western underclass’s mental, cultural, emotional and spiritual poverty is the worst he has ever seen, something backed up by the doctors from Asia who start working at his hospital: "By the end of three months my doctors have, without exception, reversed their original opinion that the welfare state, as exemplified by England, represents the acme of civilization. On the contrary, they see it now as creating a miasma of subsidized apathy that blights the lives of its supposed beneficiaries."So much of this book is due to the fact that Dalrymple is tired of people blaming the system and not taking their own actions into consideration. There is a lot of controversial stuff, that’s for sure. But as far as critical thinkers goes, Dalrymple is one of the best I’ve come across recently.I liked his thoughts on the architectural changes in England following the turn of the 20th century when Britain was entering modernity: "The architects thought that modernity was a value that transcended all other virtues; they thought they could wake the country from its nostalgic slumber, dragging it into the twentieth century by pouring what seemed to them to be the most modern of building materials—reinforced concrete—all over it. Hence, among many other crimes, they tore down the elegant Victorian wrought-iron tracery of my city’s main railway station, with its splendid arched roof over the platforms and tracks, and built instead a brutalist construction of steel and soon-discoloured concrete to a plan that proved no more practical or functional than the old."One of the points that spoke to me the most was perhaps this: "Experience has taught me that it is wrong and cruel to suspend judgement, that nonjudgmentalism is at its best indifference to the suffering of others, at worst a disguised form of sadism. How can one respect people as members of the human race unless one holds them to a standard of conduct and truthfulness? How can people learn from experience unless they are told that they can and should change?"This book will definitely make you think.

  • Jacco
    2019-05-30 14:21

    Dalrymple makes his points early on in the book, then spends the rest spewing countless anecdotes which supposedly prove them. Interesting stuff such as the passive phrases violent people use ("the knife went in...") can't make up for the fact that the author is clearly out to put all the blame on 'progressives' and 'liberals'. He makes it seem like a kind of conspiracy: liberals were and are out to destroy society.A very tiresome read.

  • Jafar
    2019-05-21 12:36

    I probably wouldn’t have like this book if I had read it in California. I wasn’t exactly a bleeding-heart liberal, but I acted outraged when Bill Clinton reformed the welfare system. Only a heartless conservative would be against providing subsistence to the weak and the vulnerable. I had enough compassion in me, like any other yuppie, not to want to see those poor single moms thrown out in the cold. I couldn’t believe people had fallen for Ronald Reagan’s myth of Cadillac-driving welfare queens.Moving to England, however, opened my eyes to the wonders of the welfare state. One of my first memories in London is from visiting my cousin in one of those ghastly council towers. I remember a pool of urine on the elevator floor. Hallways were littered with trash and beer cans. Loud music and kids screaming. The smell of piss and puke and ganja. The tower was inhabited by immigrants and the British underclass. They hated each other, but had one thing in common: milking the system. They were all on dole. This was at the height of the economic boom. There was plenty of work available. Those who worked did it for cash and hid it from the authorities. The small town in southwest London where I work is known for its population of teenage moms. While in other countries the cause of teenage pregnancy is too-stupid-not-to-get-knocked-up, England has a different breed of teenage moms: girls who get knocked up intentionally, so that they can get out of school, get free housing, and get beer money. The more babies, the more beer money. On occasions I have seen a young girl having children, each with different racial features. Multiculturalism at its best. Dalrymple is a psychiatrist who worked for many years in prisons and inner-city hospitals. This book is a collection of essays from his experience. Most of them are just telling what he had seen. Some of the essays offer his analysis of the situation. His main point is that the well-intentioned, middle and upper class liberals have created a permanent underclass with their policies. They have the intellectuals on their side to provide lofty moral justifications for their policies. These intellectuals, who are mostly middle and upper-class and are insulated from crime and poverty and the realities of the underclass and how it lives on, are smug with their sense of goodness and moral superiority and don’t see the effect of the policies that they’re promoting. They have a distorted, often too rosy, picture of human nature and can’t see what might happen when personal responsibility is no longer required of the population. There are a lot of compelling and strong arguments in this book.

  • Leonardo Bruno
    2019-06-10 18:39

    Uma das análises mais avassaladoras e aterradoras já escritas sobre a nossa época. O texto é, ao mesmo tempo, jornalístico e literário, e não é qualquer um quem o escreve: o autor, um médico que trabalha entre a subclasse inglesa (e não um intelectual em sua torre de marfim), fala com muito conhecimento de causa. Seu diagnóstico é preocupante. Dividido em duas partes — 1. A Realidade Sombria e 2. A Teoria Ainda Mais Sombria —, o livro poderia ser resumido na seguinte frase do autor: "Os pobres colhem o que os intelectuais semeiam" (p. 236). Os dados e experiências que ele apresenta ao longo do livro atestam essa cruel verdade de maneira inequívoca. Acredito que tenha sido a melhor leitura que fiz em 2015.

  • Carol Storm
    2019-06-09 18:40

    Electrifying essays by a conservative thinker who has seen the urban poor up close in the UK's worst slums -- and is terrified by what the future holds!I'm giving this book five stars, not because I agree with all of it, but because Theodore Dalrymple is a brilliant writer and a master of persuasive logic. He's a distinctive voice among the daredevil conservative thinkers who rule the sky in that flamboyant Flying Circus of political commentary known as NATIONAL REVIEW magazine. Please understand that I've been a liberal all my life, like my parents before me, but I read this magazine from cover to cover every two weeks because these guys are smarter, funnier, sexier, and better educated than any other magazine staff around. The only left-wing equivalent might be THE NATION, but putting Katrina Vandenheuvel up against Rob Long, Mark Steyn, or even Jonah Goldberg is like asking Margaret Dumont to go one on one with Groucho Marx!What makes Dalrymple unique among this company of heroes is that he is actually a working English physician who served for many years in hospitals located in or near England's worst urban slums. He's seen the needle and the damage done. He's seen gang violence, street violence, ethnic violence, domestic violence . . . and it's all here. All of it. The only question is, can you really blame all this stuff on the Welfare State? And on pop music? And on pretty female celebrities who always seem to turn up wearing sexy new clothes at movie premieres? And on members of the royal family wanting to pierce their navels?Theodore Dalrymple is a well-meaning man of tremendous courage. But he's also a hopeless fuddy-duddy. More than half a century after the birth of rock music, he's still sighing and moaning because someone, somewhere, may enjoy the Beatles more than Bach. (Guilty as charged, m'lud!) But is it really such a slippery slope from enjoying a fun, vibrant, irreverent celebrity culture and just randomly stomping on your girl friends, one after the other?Most of Dalrymple's insights are not new. Everything he has to say about the modern educational system was said much better in an essay called "Screwtape Proposes A Toast" by the late, great, C.S. Lewis. The vanished joys of working class life in England were poignantly expressed years ago in the classic rock songs -- yes, Teddy, there is such a thing as classic rock -- of the Kinks! Want to get sentimental about Blackpool holidays? Ray Davies has been there, done that, and is going back for more. ("I go to Blackpool, for my holidays/Sit in the open sunlight." AUTUMN ALMANAC, 1967.)There are so many problems with Dalrymple's treatment of sexual violence, and violence against women. He keeps insisting that the whole cause is a modern culture that encourages the poor to believe they can have all the sex they want, whenever they want, with no consequences. Damn those celebrities and their endless celebration of pleasure! (Blame the Beatles part 567.) Problem is, there are millions of well-educated, well-mannered, decent people who love the culture this man loathes, who don't go out on the beer and bash people. Dalrymple has no explanation for that. He's worked with hundreds of battered women, which is to his credit. But what really comes across is not that he wants them to be "free" but that he sort of wishes they could all go back to wearing the veil, or living secluded in a harem.Except that would mean they'd be just like the Pakistani women he writes about. And he never gets tired of pointing out how unhappy their lives are!At the end of this book I had the impression that this is a man who is tormented by a whole variety of sexual and emotional hang-ups he cannot identify and will not acknowledge . . . but he sure can hate the welfare state.Physician, heal thyself!

  • Alan Alexandrino
    2019-06-03 10:49

    Simplesmente, uma análise social avassaladora!Em muitos momentos fiquei confuso, pois não sabia se o autor estava falando da miséria moral experimentada pela Grã-Bretanha ou pelo Brasil.Recomendo!

  • Paul
    2019-06-01 13:37

    Excellent book. Dalrymple (a pseudonym) is a British doctor (prison doctor and a psychiatrist in slum hospitals) who has worked in various slum, inner-city, and third-world conditions for decades. And he's a good writer. A great essayist. This book is made up of twenty-two essays describing the patterns of thought and worldview(s) of those in the "under class"--a class neither poor nor politically oppressed; yet, they live a "wretched existence nonetheless."Dalrymple obviously has a knack for the sociological. But what's unique about this book is that it combines the impersonal data so common to sociological analysis and puts a concrete face on it, warts and all. Dalrymple bases his social commentary off of his experiences with thousands of patients. Thus, rather than meeting liberal social theory with conservative social theory, Dalrymple offers an in-your-face, real-life, heavily empirical picture of the class of people that is ultimately the product of elite, progressive, liberal factors.This book shows, if with a bit of overkill, the utter failure of liberal social ideology. When leaders from third-world countries in Africa come to England to hang out with Dalrymple and comment on how sad and pathetic a life the under class lives while not even close to living in the kind of poverty these leaders are familiar with, you know things are bad. Suicide attempts, crime, mess, poor education, crude, crass and violent behavior (esp. domestic violence), rampant pre-marital sex producing illegitimate children, rather than the product of economics, racism, poverty, etc., are actually the outcome of the philosophy of a culture of elites looking for victims.This book provides a depressing, albeit necessary, look at the worldview of the underclass and the people and mindset responsible for creating it. Thomas Sowell says of the book that it is "A classic for our times. It is as fundamental for understanding the world we live in as the three R's." Liberal social philosophy--and I say this quite apart from any alleged theological reasons--is bankrupt and dangerous (those who want it stated theologically: It doesn’t help promote the peace of the city we are exiled to as we await the promised land to come at the eschaton), Dalrymple helps explain why.

  • Hannah Cook
    2019-06-09 16:30

    I find this really hard to give a star rating to because I completely disagree with his politics, yet I devoured the book and really enjoyed it - "hate reading" as @gbaker called it. Kind of a guilty pleasure like watching Jeremy Kyle (this book has a lot in common with that show).Anyway, I thought I'd list things that the author doesn't like:IntellectualsModernismThe sexual revolutionGovernmentBureaucratsPolice (well, not the concept, but how they are so politically correct these days)Political correctnessLiberals (though I think he gets them confused with anarchists and libertarians sometimes)MulticulturalismWelfareTattoos (they are the cause of crime, don't you know!)NightclubsThe Guardian newspaperThe BBCNon-judgementalismStephen PinkerAnyway, tonnes of stuff. And you know what, some of the stuff he hates, I hate too! Like betting shops and aggressive public drunkenness. But he comes across like a mad, snobbish toff. In fact it's kind of hard to believe he works as a psychologist in very poor area of London because he has zero empathy. O wait, that's another thing he hates! Those damn bleeding heart liberals. He seems to really miss the good old days of Victorian England when it was much easier to ignore those dirty poor people. Now there are so many of them, how annoying!All his chapters (essays written throughout the 1990s) are just masses of anecdotes about his patients which were actually super interesting in themselves. And he does talk about how he just uses anecdotes instead of actual evidence of the causes of poverty and crime etc (like he's preparing his defences against obvious criticisms), but I'm going to point out the obvious criticism that there is no evidence that, for example, tattoos cause crime.I would *love* to hear what he has to say in a post-GFC world where the crimes of bankers and the finance world have been exposed. Although I already kind of know - "not the kind of thing to make you fear walking the street at night".The best thing about this book and the reason I would recommend it to anyone is that, for liberals, it is a fantastic insight into how Conservatives think. And I guess for Conservatives it just enforces their opinions. So everyone wins!

  • bartosz_witkowski
    2019-06-06 14:39

    When fishing for book recommendations some time ago I've stumbled upon Life at Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass by Theodore Dalrymple. Now, having read it I wish I had bought and read it immediately instead of postponing it for almost a year.The book is a collection of essays dealing with the British underclass. The main theme or theory of the book is that the underclass is the underclass not because of economic factors, oppression or lack of opportunities but mostly because of its worldview. The author not only contradicts the current liberal dogma but attacks it fiercely.The "poor" of today live in times of incomparable wealth, even the poorest of the poor have a roof over their head, food and access to entertainment. They don't lack material wealth yet live in moral squalor. Each article tackles a facet of the British underclass - the broken families, the battered wives, the entertainment, the living arrangements, habits so on and so forth. The author is a doctor and while his evidence is mostly anecdotal it is also exhaustive: having interviewed thousands of people. The articles are told from the perspective of the author but are written about his patients which share a particular predicament or exhibit the same worldview.While the underclass existed as long as civilization itself its recent influx can mostly be traced back to social degeneration stemming from liberal social theories. Battered wives and broken families, the author says, originate in the liberal idea of free love, the sexual revolution and lack of morals. Nobody is as progressive in this regard as a typical representative of the underclass. The women have multiple children, each with different man; the men father children to different women. All cheat on each other. Far from being the paradise liberals imagined it to be the living arrangements of those people are more then wretched. Human beings are unfortunately just humans and untested social theories can have grave consequences when made into flesh. When sex is freely given it is worthless. The family unit doesn't exist and human relationship are reduced to their basest forms. The men don't see themselves as worth anything and knowing the nonexistent value of sex they resolve to violence as a means of an ego boost and a way of keeping the women attached to themselves. The women are battered but stay in toxic relationships because it's the only thing they know (better a known wife-beater to an unknown one). The women see men as an avenue for fulfilling their urges. And in all of this the children are witnesses to daily violence which births new pathology.I've only summarized one aspect of the life of the British underclass but the book is a full frontal assault against the common ideas that predominate in the current intellectual climate - that crime is born out of poverty, that poverty is due to exploitation, that the welfare state is a positive influence, the denial of personal responsibility and the belief in social determinism. The author suggests that academic ideas like those infect the lower classes through the osmosis of media and popular culture with disastrous consequences. One example that stuck in my mind is how criminals implicitly absolve themselves from responsibility by the choice of language that they use - donning the passive voice and using phrases which make them seem simple victims of happenstance ("the knife went in", "my mind went").Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple goes to my personal list of most shocking books ever written and I'm hoping to get more of the author! The depressing content of the book is contrasted against the dry-wit of the author which makes the stories even more abhorring. While the topic is sombre, it is an all in all great book, one which I can't recommend highly enough.

  • David Robins
    2019-05-28 17:21

    The UK is perhaps only a few years ahead of the US in seeing the consequences of the liberal ideology of redistribution, making criminals into victims, tying the hands of the police with political correctness, and condemning any sort of structured education or empirical testing. This book is along the lines of Thomas Sowell's works: a deep examination of socialist policies gone awry and their effects in creating, excusing, and funding an underclass at the cost of civilized society.

  • Douglas Wilson
    2019-05-29 10:46


  • Matthew
    2019-05-31 15:47

    Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) is a retired doctor and psychiatrist. In this book of essays he presents to us the view into the English underclass. I must say that I was terrified at what I read. I guess I have never imagined the extent to which England has sunk. Dalrymple covers everything from domestic abuse, addiction, poverty, education and many more topics. He gets deep into the causes of the development of the underclass. His essay on what is poverty is brilliant. This book will open your eyes to the dangers of nanny state political systems where people are "taken care of" to the extent that they lose their self respect. They lose a sense of responsibility for their own action and thrust themselves into a vicious cycle of violence, crime and poverty. I highly recommend this book. To get a sample go and read the essay on poverty that Dalrymple wrote for the city journal

  • Cameron
    2019-06-15 15:28

    I had hopes for this book. I regrettably however, only looked at the title before reading, thinking it would be a detailed testimony on what life is like in the slums. Instead, I was given to empty, and often times pretentious, rhetoric by a British gentleman who appears to be bitter over the apparent end of the British aristocracy. He woes over the foolish underclass—who, according to him, chose their condition completely out of their own volition— and their partying, their self-delusion, their tattoos, their sense of entitlement, and use of indirect language and first person passive sentences. But he doesn’t put all the blame on them; for that, he leaves to the “liberal elites”, who have filled the minds of the underclass with notions of sociological and economic determinism.And what evidence does Theodore Dalrymple bring for his case? Absolutely nothing. No statistics, no references, nothing— except a misrepresentation of Steven Pinker and his work on linguistics. No, for Dalrymple’s case, all he brings is anecdote, which would be only barely convincing if it weren’t peppered with numerous fallacies of false dichotomy, over-generalization, and straw man. It’s also worth noting that much of his accusations that crime was on the rise in Britain were actually statistically false according to the British Crime Survey (Measuring Crime for 25 Years, 2006). According to this source, trends of violent crime, vehicle crime, burglary, and overall trends in crime, have been falling since 1995, one year after Dalrymple wrote his first essay in this collection, “The Knife Went In”.With this in mind, it seems obvious that this man has a conservative agenda. For who in their right mind, except in the name of ideology, would say such asinine things? According to Dalrymple, the poor not only freely chose to live the way they do, but they did it because they’re selfish, bored, or foolish in believing the liberal elites (or at least, Dalrymple's poorly characterized version of the liberal elites); they allegedly don’t dare help themselves, because that would force them to give up their worldview of the welfare state. I will posit a question for the reader however: What seems more likely? And furthermore, what seems more elitist? To say that the condition of the poor— and the rest of society— is being influenced by certain factors (whether it be capitalism, racism, family life, education, and/or society’s value of education)? Or, to say that the poor are a self-centered, high-culture-ruining, populace that shouldn’t be given government aid? Regardless, Dalrymple contends the latter, and continues to remark on how these evidently insolent, gullible masses just can’t seem to get over their own egos and stop being poor. In the end, if one really wants to hear what this man has to say on poverty, they’d be better off finding the nearest conservative tabloid. It will give about the same effect, and be just as convincing, though the writing may not be as good.

  • Jen B
    2019-05-24 12:41

    A collection of Dalrymple's essay about the underclass in Britain—though I daresay America is not far from seeing the same situation becoming widespread as well. His diagnosis is grim, his prescription surely one that will not be undertaken, for isn't it cruel and judgmental to suggest that children (and parents and teachers) take education seriously, that women are not chattel (in England, mind you—England! The nation that once responded furiously to women throwing themselves upon their husband's funeral pyres!), that those who beat children to death should not be let go simply because of "cultural differences" cited by social workers, that public drunkenness and vulgarity are indeed a bad thing that should at least be frowned upon and (dare I say...) shamed? Aren't we being rigid in our expectations that people do indeed adhere to long-held social norms like good manners and respect for persons and private property, as well as supposedly lesser things like good grammar and basic knowledge of history and mathematics? (Such things are not nearly as small and unimportant as many would have us believe, by the way.)The main point driven by this book is that the permissiveness and "non-judgmentalism" insisted upon by the statists (herein called 'liberals', though this is one of history's biggest misnomers) have, alas, not resulted in Utopia at all, but a world that results in frustration, disillusionment, and pure misery—a true living hell, as the doctor says—for both the decent and the indecent (oh my!) who prey upon the former—while not bothering, much less affecting (yet), those who have put the wheels leading to this situation into motion. Bright people are trapped by a world that scowls at and seeks to quash anything smacking of achievement or attempts to achieve; innocent people are assaulted within and without their homes by vicious creatures acting without any idea beyond satisfying the lust of the moment—creatures the police often do not even reprimand, much less jail and prosecute.Some Utopia. Great job, everyone!This book, which is well worth reading, is available to be perused for free online.

  • Jon
    2019-05-30 12:28

    The whole book is driving the point home of personal responsibility. Much like I WILL NOT take responsibility for my abuse of alcohol and my unwillingness to change my situation out of mind blowing laziness and apathy, Dalrymple argues a lot of this is my own choice?!?! What an asshole!!! He is harshing my buzz... He states that a lot of this originates from academia and most from Liberal thought and blaming "the system" rather than "the self". As if!!! The idea that instead of a murderer murdering someone because they are a shitty person, it was his "upbringing" or it was in a "fit of rage out of his control". The doc states it is this excuse that allows the person to become a victim of their own mentality...What an asshole this author is!? How dear he! My alcoholism is my own choosing, really??? Has he attended an A.A. meeting?? It is all in my brain and shit. My brain is making me do it!!! DUH! Science and shit, what kind of doctor is this guy anyway?! Also, alcoholism is in my family, so I can't choose!! What a dick... In addition, the culture makes me drink in order to conform to "cool dude" status in vain attempts to pick up loose women at the bar because I glamorize alcoholism, the poor, and the down trodden stereotypes that permeate all of western civilization and is heavily portrayed in pop culture.....This guy has it all wrong?! Pour him a drink!

  • Mike The Don
    2019-06-02 16:35

    Life at the Bottom is a point of view from a hospital psychiatrist in the slums of England. He writes of his observations, then his professional opinion on the matter. The book is divided into two parts. The first seems to be based heavily on observation which is then backed by opinion. The second seems to be written in reverse, more heavily based on opinion backed with observation.The doctor takes a conservative stand point, and can sometimes seem cynical in some of his written thoughts. This may be true, yet it cannot be denied that Theodore Dalrymple has only good intentions for his patients and is saddened when he sees them make decisions that inevitably brings them back to step one.His humor, although hard to catch at times, is witty and subtle. It is understandable if people mistaken some jokes for actual view points. It might even take a second read through a chapter to catch some things.I never really was interested in social science, but this book has opened a new line of reading possibilities for me. Definitely a good read.

  • Pam
    2019-06-12 16:34

    This was a very disturbing book, one of the most honest looks at England's underclass. Dr. Theodore Dalrymple has a very real-life look into the world he describes so eloquently in his life as a doctor in a slum district. The similarities with American life are startling. I was also surprised that his stories of addicts and people caught in the system resemble people I have dealt with in my supposedly "insulated" suburban private school. The decline of society cannot be denied but just like the "frog in the pot" we continue down the slippery slope without thought, led by liberal thinking into further and further ignorance. It was a refreshing change from the "educational drivel" served up, I will read this again with a notebook and pen.

  • Mark Jr.
    2019-05-28 18:28

    An incomparable essayist with insight and unique experienceDalrymple writes fantastic prose and offers insight into modern life through the lens of a doctor serving the British "underclass." Bracing.

  • Eliza
    2019-05-31 18:22

    Reading Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom was like going to McDonalds with Margaret Thatcher and having her constantly whispering in your ear while pointing rudely at strangers, 'Oh, aren't they awful, look at their table manners, oh how ghastly!' Now, while Margaret might be right, there might be a bit of lettuce saturated with orange sauce hanging out of a spotty teenager's oily mouth, and you might indeed be repulsed by it, but after her diatribe you will be determined that you see the dining etiquette of a demigod before you. While I do suspect that there is more than a glimmer of truth in Dalrymple's entirely anecdotal exploration of the British 'underclass', I found myself mentally contradicting him at every turn. He was just too gleeful in pointing out the proverbial lettuce hanging out of the oily mouth of society; he was almost certainly enjoying himself too much when recounting the abject misery of countless other human beings.If I were to write a book on the same topic, I might simply copy and paste this passage from Joseph Conrad's (let's be honest, unreadable) Heart of Darkness:"Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror — of an intense and hopeless despair. [...] He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision, — he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath — 'The horror! The horror!'"This is probably the most appropriate response to the cycle of violence, drugs, domestic abuse, parental neglect, illiteracy, misery and alienation explored in this book. You won't get this from Dalrymple, who at one stage describes nightclub attendees as a 'seething mass of people' who 'move like maggots in a tin'. Lovely.This isn't a bad book, it's actually pretty compelling, and gives an unwavering look at the realities of life 'at the bottom' in the UK. The author doesn't set out to right these wrongs, he simply states them, and I think he's faithful to this aim. However his lack of true sadness and lament at the situation disturbs me; he is simply enjoying himself a bit too much. All of his evidence is also anecdotal, which is problematic in and of itself, and so anyone looking for an in-depth sociological study into the class system in the UK should look elsewhere. This is more of an opinion piece, a very readable opinion piece, which raises some valid issues which would bear further scrutiny.As an aside, if you were to read Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom alongside Owen Jones's Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, you might feel like you were allowing a UFC fight take place in your brain. Please someone do this and let me know what it's like.

  • Amar Pai
    2019-06-17 15:48

    He lost me at the point where he sneers at the Guardian's characterization of Puff Daddy as one of America's greatest minds...Just as there is said to be no correct grammar or spelling, so there is no higher or lower culture: difference itself is the only recognized distinction. This is a view peddled by intellectuals eager to demonstrate to one another their broad-mindedly democratic sentiment. For example, the newspaper that is virtually the house journal of Britain's liberal intelligentsia, the Guardian (which would once honorably have demanded that, in the name of equity and common decency, the entire population should be given access to high culture), recently published an article about a meeting in New York of what it described in headlines as "some of America's biggest minds." And who were America's biggest minds? Were they its Nobel prize-winning scientists, its physicists and molecular biologists? Were they America's best contemporary scholars or writers? Or perhaps its electronics entrepreneurs who have so transformed the world in the last half-century?No, some of the biggest minds in America belonged, in the opinion of the Guardian, to rap singers such as Puff Daddy, who were meeting in New York (for "a summit," as the Guardian put it) to end the spate of senseless mutual killings of East and West Coast rap singers and improve the public image of rap as a genre. Pictures of the possessors of these gigantic minds accompanied the article, so that even if you did not already know that rap lyrics espouse a set of values that is in equal part brutal and stupid, you would know at once that these allegedly vast intellects belonged to people indistinguishable from street thugs.The insincerity of this flattery is obvious to anyone with even a faint acquaintance with the grandeur of human achievement. It is inconceivable that the writer of the article, or the editor of the newspaper, both educated men, truly believed that Puff Daddy et al. possessed some of the biggest minds in America. But the fact that the debased clture of which rap music is a product receives such serious attention and praise deludes its listeners into supposing that nothing finer exists than what they already know and like. Such flattery is thus the death of aspiration, and lack of aspiration is, of course, one of the causes of passivity.Fuck you, Dalrymple!!

  • Fabrício Tavares De Moraes
    2019-06-12 13:39

    Nessa obra, Theodore Dalrymple, partindo de sua experiência concreta, quando não crua, demonstra as raízes morais e espirituais da miséria urbana, em contraposição direta aos discursos progressistas que atribuem, ad nauseam, as causas a conceitos hipostatizados como "sociedade" ou "conflitos de interesse". Mais do que simples ensaios sobre a decadência cultural do Ocidente, Dalrymple traça quadros nítidos do falhanço dos ideais iluministas e dos efeitos deletérios das proposições acadêmicas sobre a sociedade como um todo. Acima de tudo, grande parte da degeneração atual, conforme atesta os exemplos e insights de Dalrymple, provém da assimilação deliberada dos símbolos, imagens e costumes das subclasses por parte das elites, como forma de expiação de uma suposta culpa histórica. A despeito do clamor dos multiculturalistas e relativistas, uma cultura que escolhe ignorar quaisquer valorações ou hierarquia dentro de seu seio, tende, via de regra, não à harmonia, mas à debilidade geral. Como em outra parte Dalrymple cita o Dr. Johnson, não resta "nada senão a iniquidade".

  • Kjirstin
    2019-05-29 16:36

    Very interesting collection of essays... though very depressing, too. A look into the patterns of thought that trap people in an underclass, and why they perpetuate their downfall. What makes it more interesting (from an American standpoint) is that, in discussing the problems of a mostly urban underclass in Great Britain, we are mostly removing the troublesome question of race from the equation, which allows one to look to the roots of the problem of the underclass of and by itself.Worth reading, to delve down into why recidivists continue to repeat the same violent acts over and over again, why the women in these environments choose repeatedly to connect themselves with abusive men, and how people can be trapped into a life of venal boredom and the tyranny of the perpetual now. Thought-provoking, and as I began with, depressing too.

  • Keenan Wells
    2019-06-15 14:45

    It appears to me that Mr. Dalrymple is somewhat of a traditionalist, or perhaps more accurately, vehemently opposed to postmodern deconstructionist ideas. I think the text shines more brightly when he begins to dictate on the nature of responsibility, cause-and-effect(As he put it when mentioning the state of lower-class housing; does the pig make the stye, or the stye make the pig?), and the nature of so called 'victim blaming', and whether avoiding judgement altogether is truly one's best course of action at all times. I do not agree with most of Mr Dalrymple's points, but it is a refreshingly different opinon peice, as he's reasons for belief, prejudiced or not, are held which such articulation, that one cannot really fault the man, and even consider the stability of one's preconcieved notions because of it.

  • Walter Slovo
    2019-05-27 10:36

    Bílá lůza – Anglie, jak ji neznášPředností Ztraceni v Ghettu od Theodore Dalrymple jsou očitá svědectví autora - lékaře pracujícího v nemocnici, která stojí v oblasti s vysokou nezaměstnaností. Zároveň pracuje ve věznici. Z každodenního střetávání se s anglickou spodinou - hlavně tou bělošskou - autor předkládá obvinění určená liberálům ze střední třídy. Zvyšující se zločinnost v Británii šla ruku v ruce s nárůstem studentů kriminologie, v čemž autor vidí vztah. Podle něj liberálové ze střední vrstvy dělají z pachatelů oběti, přičemž oběti kriminálních činů nemají oporu ve státních institucích. Pachatel nakonec operuje s tím, že on sám je obětí a očekává lepší zacházení.Zbytek v mé recenzi:

  • Velvetink
    2019-05-26 17:37

    Lots of food for thought in this series of essays on poverty and the underclass in Britain. His ideas could cover any western country, including Australia. Theodore Dalrymple is a doctor and columnist. He has a weekly column in the London Spectator, in which he specialises in skewering sacred cows, especially those held by the so-called chattering classes. But it's not as if he is talking through his hat - as a doctor he has worked with many underprivileged communities, both in England and Africa.

  • Travis
    2019-06-17 12:31

    Brilliant! I love Dalrymple's prose, and especially his message. Beautifully written, and eloquently argued that we must choose to be responsible for our lives. He exploration of the effects that some ideas have on the behavior of the underclass was fascinating. It did leave me wondering about the curious relationship between how the upperclass will imitate lower classes, and I have to assume that this plagiarism runs both ways, though Dalrymple only looks at the tendency of British society to slouch toward mediocrity.

  • Cyn Bagley
    2019-05-24 18:39

    I have read bits and pieces of Dalrymple's writings; however, reading his essays one after another is a tight punch to the gut. I was saddened about how people had become stratified through a belief that kept them dependent. Many of the problems-- disdain for education, irresponsibility, and abuse-- could be fixed with a change of attitude. Sad and scary.

  • Aaron
    2019-05-27 18:47

    Life at the Bottom – by Theodore DalrympleTheodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom is about the worldview of the British underclass and the liberal intellectuals and middleclass who support it. His arguments are 1) that the poverty of the underclass is caused by their negative worldview and 2) that liberal intellectualism created and supports this worldview. The book is divided into two parts: Grim Reality and Grim Theory, each divided further into chapters. In the first part, the author provides anecdotes about characteristics of individuals in the underclass or individuals who affect the underclass. In the second part he outlines the theories, both the misconceptions and the author’s corrections, about the low class and intellectualism. Before the publication of the book, the chapters were independent articles written several years apart by the author for City Journal. Therefore each chapter can be read and understood without the previous chapter as a prerequisite, especially since both of the main arguments are usually presented clearly in each chapter. However, the chapters seem to be organized by the accessibility of the theme or idea in increasing complexity. For example, the first chapter, The Knife Went In, the author presents the singular, enclosed observation of how a criminal shifts the guilt of his crime from himself to society or nature. The last chapter, Seeing Is Not Believing, he outlines the relationship of several, more difficult ideas: the consequences of what he calls the “liberal intellectual mechanisms.” Dalrymple supports his two main arguments with personal experiences as a psychiatrist in the slums of England as well as by critiquing the logic and implications of liberal intellectual beliefs. He does not use sources for his statistical claims but, in a few instances, reveals his thoughts on statistics and how liberal intellectuals misuse and misinterpret them (pg. 13, 22). More importantly, the purpose of the book is not to examine the validity or implication of his statistical claims, which are in no sense obscure nor difficult to find (literacy scores and crime rates for example), rather to assume these statistics and general observations as true and find their cause. His statistics are, in this book, a priori. This quality makes the book more philosophical than social science. The author uses his common experience (which, it could be argued, is the most basic form of statistical data) and constructs a model of cause and effect. So the theoretical end of Life at the Bottom can be described as follows: a very experienced psychologist declares the cause of his common experiences with specific concepts. This might seem an unreasonable time spent on describing the type of book, but is necessary to be understood and critiqued properly.As just mentioned, the author builds his arguments on certain beliefs. His most important belief is that humans are the authors of their own deeds (pg. 8). He states this frequently when challenging the status of “victimhood” that many criminals and suicide patients claim—their defense being that the situation was beyond their control. The author refers to their claims as “dishonest” because of other situations in which the patient exercised restraint or control from the same negative activity (pg. 8). This contradiction, the author believes, exposes the patient’s true understanding, or at the very least an instinct, of the basic truth that “individuals have the right (within defined limits) to choose how to live” (pg. 27). Another important belief by the author is so obvious that it is easy to miss: the belief that there is something wrong with the British people in the first place (that the English people are in decline). Fortunately the author states this belief explicitly in the last chapter when he defines the first liberal intellectual mechanism, outright denial (pg. 251). Outright denial is the refusal to accept the decline of English culture, specifically crime and education. The author believes that the evidence for increasing violent crimes and decreasing test scores is overwhelming and should be accepted as fact. The reader should accept this too if he or she is to criticize the book fairly. Otherwise the debate lies elsewhere.The reader will only find this book useful if he agrees with the author on his two beliefs that 1) humans are the authors of their own deeds and 2) that the English culture and society are in decline. The reader should approach this book with the curiosity of “what” people, particularly the underclass, do, but with the goal of understanding the “why.” The author’s anecdotes answer the “what” and critique on liberal intellectualism answers the “why.” The “why” is best answered on page 254. This is also the climactic conclusion of the book’s theme. He asks, “But why so insistent a denial of the obvious…” by liberal intellectualism? It could be reworded to ask: why do certain people deny the author’s second belief that the English people are in decline? I will summarize his answer as this: The path originates in the mind of the person, the intellectual, when he observes that the world is not completely “blissful.” This person decides that bliss can only be achieved by the removal of, what he believes, to be “arbitrary and artificial fetters that their (his) society placed on the satisfaction of appetite” (pg. 254). Negative consequences follow, yet this person uses the three liberal mechanisms to avoid responsibility. He avoids responsibility because to admit a “simple truth,” and that he was wrong, would strip him of his “Weltanschauung,” or worldview. Thus the answer to the Life at the Bottom is egotism. My own thoughts on this answer are as follows. The answer of egotism seemed risky and unwarranted. Any answer that relies on a person’s intentions should be examined skeptically, especially the more complicated and subtle the intentions become. In other words, I wanted the answer to be something more “solid.” But as I searched to define what I meant by “solid,” I realized the most solid answer, when dealing with philosophy and especially with ethics and politics, will always be of human nature. Most of my fears of using intentions as proof of anything are that intentions are hard to quantify or even presume. However, the author is not concerned with the unique intentions of each person, but the intentions and experiences that are common to all rational beings. A self-evident truth of human nature is egotism. But it is more commonly called, especially amongst conservatives, self-interest. After using this word, not only is the author’s conclusion obvious but consistent with the author’s first belief that humans are the authors of their own deeds. The conclusion of egotism functions rhetorically as well. The author is a psychiatrist and the theme of Life at the Bottom is psychology. After all, a worldview can only exist in the mind. It is fitting that Theodore Dalrymple recapitulates with the human mind. Any answer other than the individual mind would be inconsistent with his premise and beliefs.