On Some Perils of Imitation

  • Nicholas Deakin


This paper is about two government-sponsored programmes designed to deal with the endlessly rediscovered problem of poverty in two of the most prosperous societies in the world — the Poverty Program in the United States and the Urban Programme in Great Britain. Superficially, the parallels between the two are very close. Each begins with a human situation anatomized in a book: Michael Harrington’s The Other America (1962) and Peter Townsend and Brian Abel-Smith’s The Poor and the Poorest (1965). Each was launched with a speech: Lyndon B. Johnson’s at Howard University, Harold Wilson’s at Birmingham Town Hall. Both leaders chose to dramatize one particular aspect of the problem by underlining the particular problem of race; and part of the difficulties that arose subsequently stemmed from the association with such a contentious topic. As the struggle to break away from this association led to a broadening of focus, each turned to the particular difficulties experienced by deprived children. This was a situation analysed in the United States in the Coleman Report on equality of educational opportunity (1966) and in Britain in the Plowden Report on primary education (1967).


Local Authority Central Government Immigration Control Community Development Project Poverty Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. There is a copious literature on the Poverty Program, of which I have found the following particularly useful: Sar A. Levitan, The Great Society’s Poor Law (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969);Google Scholar
  2. T. R. Marmor, Poverty Policy (Chicago: Aldine, 1971);Google Scholar
  3. R. A. Levine, The Poor Ye Need Not Have with You (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1970); andGoogle Scholar
  4. F. Reissman, Strategies against Poverty (New York: Random House, 1969).Google Scholar
  5. Daniel Moynihan’s views are in his Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding (New York: Free Press, 1969); a very different interpretation isGoogle Scholar
  6. Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward’s Regulating the Poor (New York: Vintage Books, 1971). Indispensable background reading in this context isGoogle Scholar
  7. Peter Marris and Martin Rein, Dilemmas of Social Reform, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), which makes explicit connections between the British and American situations.Google Scholar
  8. By contrast, the literature on Britain is sparse. Robert Holman’s important criticisms can be found in his article ‘The Wrong Poverty Programme’, New Society, 20 Mar 1969, and in Socially Deprived Families in Britain (London: Bedford Square Press, 1970).Google Scholar
  9. There is a useful factual description in T. and G. Smith’s essay ‘Urban First Aid’, New Society, 30 Dec 1971, and a polemical review in Community Action, 1, 3 (July–Aug 1972). The publications of the Coventry CDP are of very considerable interest; the Home Office issues a brief information sheet (Notes on the Urban Programme’). The Child Poverty Action Group have issued a great deal of relevant material (obtainable from 1 Macklin Street, Drury Lane, London WC2). There are also a number of Fabian tracts that are of relevance, notably Anne Lapping (ed.), Community Action (Tract 400).Google Scholar
  10. The report of the Educational Promotion Area project, A. H. Halsey (ed.), Education Priority (London: HMSO, 1972) is also helpful.Google Scholar
  11. Apart from these published sources, Michael Cassidy and Peter Marris have allowed me to draw on unpublished material. Peter Marris also commented very helpfully on an earlier draft of the paper. I am most grateful to him. Maree Ley typed the successive versions of an increasingly lengthy paper: my thanks to her too.Google Scholar
  12. This paper began at a seminar given at the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs, Chicago, in April 1972. I am grateful to Professor William R. Polk and the Fellows of the Institute for stimulating me into further thought and activity.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nicholas Deakin 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Deakin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Planning and TransportationGreater London CouncilUK

Personalised recommendations