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Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass Paperback – 8 Mar 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; Reprint edition (8 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566635055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566635059
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 1.9 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Truthful-therefore morally courageous and intellectually rigorous. -- Norman Podhoretz Dalrymple's vivid writing and often heartbreaking stories rise above his deeply felt social analysis. Publishers Weekly Brilliant social analysis...a master chronicle of life at the bottom. -- Hilton Kramer Lucid, unsentimental, and profoundly honest...Dalrymple is one of the great essayists of our age. -- Denis Dutton, Editor, Arts & Letters Daily This devastating account and analysis of underclass life-and the elite ideas which support it-is a classic for our times. -- Thomas Sowell It is a truism that ideas have consequences, but a truism is rarely illustrated as implacably as in this book. -- George F. Will Theodore Dalrymple is the best doctor-writer since William Carlos Williams. -- Peggy Noonan Mr. Daniels's best essays cast a spell almost from the opening line. New York Sun A landmark experience is reading Life at the Bottom... Detroit Free Press Once in a long while a writer comes along with a vision so powerful that it shakes you. Theodore Dalrymple is that kind of writer. -- Bruce Ramsey Liberty Press

About the Author

Theodore Dalrymple is a physician and psychiatrist who practices in England. He writes a column for the London Spectator, contributes frequently to the Daily Telegraph, and is a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. His other books include Our Culture, What's Left of It, Mass Listeria, and So Little Done. He lives in Birmingham, England.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

197 of 212 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Michael T. Pearse on 19 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is a classic! It is beautifully written and engagingly argued. Dalrymple is a doctor in both a prison and a hospital in Birmingham, and he presents, with case after case after relentless case, the devastating evidence of what happens - especially to the poor - when individuals are separated from the immediate consequences of their actions, only to have those consequences bounce back later with even greater force. This is the effect of the no-blame, no-shame, value-free ideology propounded for more than a generation by our schools, media and criminal justice system. The effect is to trap the poor in poverty and illiteracy and fragmenting families - because they are told that nothing they do is their fault, but rather that of 'society' ... and in any case the state will always pick up the immediate task of mopping up. To subsidise fragmented families is to make them bearable and even desirable - so more families fragment. To ease up the pressure in schools on children to learn the basics is to make it easier for them to opt out of doing so - and so to ensure a generation of illiterates and innumerates who are trapped in poverty. To go easy on petty crime is to allow youthful aberrations to become settled patterns of behaviour, with consequences that ruin the lives of all of us, and especially of the poorest who cannot escape the criminalised environments in which they are forced to live. To call such laxity 'liberalism' is a travesty and an outrage, for it delivers the poorest and weakest into a tyranny.
Dalrymple himself has worked as a doctor in Tanzania and Nigeria, and has no illusions about the dreadful conditions obtaining in those countries. Yet he believes that, all things considered, the life of the British underclass is far worse, because so degraded and without dignity.
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93 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Lance Grundy TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fine book in which Theodore Dalrymple advances some common sense ideas about why the so-called "underclass" are the way they are. His time as a doctor in an inner city hospital has given him ample time to observe certain inalienable truths about the patterns of behaviour that lead to the chaotic and miserable lives lived by many in Britain today.

He argues that through a combination of bad parenting and poor education people are no longer taught to think for themselves and therefore have no comprehension of the ideas of personal responsibility, cause and effect or that their actions will have consequences. Sadly, through his daily interactions with the "underclass" Dr Dalrymple shows that many of those with whom he interacts tend to think things just happen to them rather than that, as is frequently the case, they are authors of their own misfortunes.

A damning indictment of 40 years of liberal-left social engineering that has led to this appalling state of affairs and betrayed a whole generation. Truly depressing reading.
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64 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Bravo on 2 Dec. 2004
Format: Hardcover
The author as a doctor is a witness to prisoners and patients in a deprived area. A brilliant book, which describes how the underclass has absorbed the dogma from the liberal elite; you are not responsible for your actions, it's all the fault of society. He explains the pathology of this in a forthright, entertaining and often humourous way (taking issue with the reviewer- the tattoo comments were an example of this humour, and only the dimmest of readers could possibly think this was a serious comment- he goes on to explain an observed link by the percentage of prison inmates who are tattoed). It's uncomfortable reading for the left-wingers who think that by simply giving away money as a reward for irresponsible, bad, violent or selfish behaviour (the Welfare State) solves problems. Rather, it has led to a significant proportion of people who cannot accept that their actions are caused by their deliberate choice. An example he cites: 'Doctor, can you give me something to stop burgling houses?' The criminal cannot comprehend that his preference to robbing others rather than work is because of his greed and idleness; rather it is an illness which needs treatment by prescription drugs. A real eye-opener of how low this country has sunk.
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best book I have read in years. A comparison with Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier is unavoidable. Life at the Bottom like Orwell's book deals with the plight of the poorest and least fortunate members of our society. Both books are brilliantly written in concise elegant English that makes them an easy read. Where the books differ is in their analysis of what causes the under classes misery. Orwell blamed capitalism and thought the cure was socialism. Dalrymple successfully argues that it is the ideas of left wing intellectuals, like Orwell, that are in fact at the root of most of our current social problems. Surprisingly considering the grim nature of its subject the book contains a lot of humour . A fact lost on at least one reviewer who took the hilarious chapter on tattoos too literally.
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65 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 27 Dec. 2005
Format: Paperback
Dr Dalrymple writes with forensic articulacy on the circumstances which have led to the creation, tolerance and encouragement of a large underclass in the UK.
One forms the opinion that he is actually very angry at the patients and prisoners that he has had to deal with, day and daily, and the knowledge that he has chosen to retire from the front line at 56 years of age would tend to confirm that he can no longer stand to be confronted with the people whose outlook and behaviour he so lucidly describes and utterly despises. His writing is undoubtedly the mechanism by which he vents his spleen at the individuals - and the system - which makes fools of all responsible citizens trying to practice and retain reasonable civilised values in the UK today.
This is a very, very uncomfortable book for anyone attempting to live by even a modicum of traditional values and social responsibilty. It demonstrates that not only are the barbarians at the gate but also that they are well and truly among us and that they are driving social, political and economic policy in 21st century Britain to the detriment of those whose values, historically, have been the foundation and backbone of this country.
The book shows that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle, almost certainly never to return, and that UK citizens who subscribe to and depend upon the societal values, norms, checks and balances of only a handful of decades ago would do well to consider emigration in the face of the rise and increasing prominence of the thug/gormless class who expect the world around them to mould itself to their view and ways rather than vice versa. The anecdotes recounted in this book are quite laughable in some respects but very unhappy and deadly serious in their consequences for all of us in others.
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