The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Monday, 11 May 2009]

Review: Gang Leader for a Day

Very interesting insights into the shadow economy.
Gang Leader for a Day
Gang Leader for a Day cover.
Click to purchase at Amazon.

Sudhir Venkatesh has something wrong with his brain, and we’re all the better for it. At least it’s hard to imagine anything but pathological lack of fear would lead a sociology grad student to go hang out with a drug-dealing gang in arguably one of the worst ghettos in America.

We’re all the better for it since Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day is a compelling and eminently readable account of life inside a ghetto, both for the gangs and the citizens who make it their home.

The most profound feeling you get from reading Gang Leader for a Day is also the most mundane—that people struggling to deal with lives mired in poverty, drugs, and violence are just that: people. Underneath it all they’re no different from anybody else.

If the name Sudhir Venkatesh rings a bell, it might be because he is included in Freakonomics, my review of which is here.

Gang Leader for a Day is a wonderful and important book. Highly recommended.

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