Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City” as Want to Read:
Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  1,110 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
Inner-city black America is often stereotyped as a place of random violence, but in fact, violence in the inner city is regulated through an informal but well-known code of the street. This unwritten set of rules—based largely on an individual's ability to command respect—is a powerful and pervasive form of etiquette, governing the way in which people learn to negotiate pu ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 17th 2000 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published May 31st 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Code of the Street, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Code of the Street

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Shannon Wyss
Anderson’s book is an interesting, enthralling look at life in inner-city Philadelphia. His ethnographic portraits of how individuals navigate life in an extremely poor, all African American neighborhood are important, powerful, and add to our understanding of inner-city experiences and the legacy of slavery and the ongoing existence of racism and racial segregation.

However, the book has a few problems, most of which revolve around gender and Anderson’s attention to it.

“Code of the Street” is
In fairness, I should note that I read this book over a decade after it had been published. This aside, it is a book that clearly influenced such work as HBO’s The Wire (best series ever).
That said, I have to wonder why more attention or study wasn’t given to the women. In many ways, this is a book about men in those areas with little sidebars about the women. There is no concrete example given of the women outside the blanket stereotypes that are assigned to them. There is nothing wrong with th
Tippy Jackson
Feb 16, 2010 Tippy Jackson rated it it was ok
yeah. Not so much. I have many problems with this book. First off, it is very clearly written by a middle-aged man. This man has very specific ideas of gender rolls and the place of "decency" and "family values" in a community and any different or modern ideas of these things are not considered. His opinions (which are largely unfounded) on teen pregnancy and welfare are vague, absurd and apparently based on common rumors spread by young males in the neighborhood. They lack even a basic understa ...more
Jun 29, 2008 Jill rated it really liked it
I work in the criminal justice system in Philadelphia and have great respect for Elijah Anderson's perspective. His accounts and explanations are as real as it gets. Anyone who works with poverty stricken, at-risk populations in urban areas should be aware of Anderson's work. This book gets a bit wordy at times but the underlying message is clear. We need to do more to educate and train these individuals for legitimate professions. Otherwise we are going to continue, unsuccessfully, attempting t ...more
J. Trott
Mar 03, 2010 J. Trott rated it liked it
The Gangstarr song of the same name shows a greater passion for inventive expression.

This book is good. I wish it had more stories, and less analysis. It's conclusions do not seem deep to me, but then I invest a good amount of mental energy thinking about the questions that this book attempts to answer. If you don't understand the code of the streets, this would be a good way to learn. Them buls ain't playin.
Dec 06, 2008 Karen rated it it was ok
I didn't get this book, it just felt like a whole lot of generalizations. Ostensibly he did research, but he doesn't use a lot of examples to back up what he's saying.
The first three chapters of this book basically make Anderson's point, that there is a different moral/ethical code for the "decent" families in the inner city black community and the "street" families. He then spends the rest of the book drawing out the implications for childhood preganancy, grandmothers, and fathers. In the last two chapters Anderson leaves the objective pose of the sociologist and tells the stories of two young men with whom he got personally involved in the course of his "re ...more
Mar 09, 2008 Eric rated it did not like it
In this ethnographic study of North Philadelphia "street culture" Anderson reproduces many of the myths about a self destructive black, urban "underclass." While he avoids outright victim blaming, by accepting the - then common - "culture of poverty" narrative, Anderson locates the root of urban poverty and its byproducts not in the fundamental economic and political inequality created and perpetuated by capitalism but in black "pathology". Further, Anderson's own moral predispositions permeate ...more
Lisa Taylor
Jul 20, 2010 Lisa Taylor rated it it was amazing
Elijah Anderson does an excellent job profiling the norms and street life in one urban neighborhood. This is a transformative book, in that, if you have never survived the streets of a violent, drug-infested, crime-ridden city, you will learn so much from Anderson's portrayal, where he transports you to the streets. An excellent ethnography, Anderson's writing style helps make this book a pleasure to read.
Mar 04, 2015 Foxmj rated it did not like it
This book makes a culture of poverty argument, and takes it too the extreme. There is no analysis. It is littered with conjecture and rumor that ends up casting its subjects in the worst light possible. It blames the victims of poverty. I can't say enough that this book is one of the worst things to happen to sociology.
Dec 27, 2010 Michael rated it liked it
This is a very good text, but I thought Anderson would have done better by providing a comparison between the moral code of inner city youth and another moral code. After reading this, I did have to be careful not to treat the findings as a basis for interacting with people whom I worked with that came from the inner city of Philadelphia.
Apr 20, 2009 trickgnosis rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-misc
A very readable ethnographic account of life in some of the worst inner-city neighborhoods in Philadelphia--kind of an academic counterpart to David Simon's The Corner. The book is ten years old now so some of the details feel a bit dated but the dilemmas it describes are still relevant and the problems have yet to be solved.
Jul 25, 2011 Bruce rated it really liked it
A little dated now but a decent look into the world of the inner city for Black Americans. Based on a trip down Germantown Avenue into Philly from the burbs, it describes the subtle and not so subtle changes one encounters on the way, as the city gets grittier and grittier.
Jan 09, 2013 Raina rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, urban, nonfic
Unpacks the dynamic of innercity life. Read it for the Oregon Extension program in college, and it's stayed with me.
Nathan Nearpass
Dec 19, 2009 Nathan Nearpass rated it really liked it
Besides being a little outdated this book is excellent. Anderson exegeses of inner city black culture is outstanding and very helpful to anyone interesting in urban work.
4 stars for the topic, the examples, and the information
2 stars for how poorly it was written
Andrew Saltz
Mar 03, 2009 Andrew Saltz rated it really liked it
If you want a view of inner city life from an anthropologist, this is a good book. Otherwise, meh.
Megan Verhagen
Jan 05, 2017 Megan Verhagen rated it liked it
Anderson's book obviously made great contributions to the field of criminology. As mentioned in previous reviews and by academic critics however, there are some issues in his work.

Specifically noted as a feminist scholar, is Anderson's tendency to treat adherence to traditional gender roles as a form of positive coping for what he calls the 'decent family' and an obsession with toxic gender roles as a plight of being 'street'. Discussing the influence of gender roles as both protective and toxi
Nov 27, 2016 Camille rated it it was amazing
This book proved to be a lot to ponder and realize about the life of a lot of people of color, not necessarily those in the inner city. I was able to relate to a lot of what was being said and explained and it shed some light on other things that I had not experienced. This is a read that can be used as a reference over and over again and it would be right to have this as a bit of required reading for college courses, it it isn't already. This would have been a good resource for my African Ameri ...more
Janastasia Whydra
My first impression of Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City was of disbelief. I thought, based on the Introduction, Anderson was attempting to state that race = class = personality. Therefore, White = Money = Friendly Neighborhood and Black = Poor = Violent Neighborhood.

Anderson breaks down his Introduction within the next four chapters. I come to the conclusion that Anderson meant race can have an influencing factor of a person's persona
May 12, 2014 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at the streets of Philadelphia (insert Springsteen joke here). It is amazing that my students have so much in common with 90s street culture in Philadelphia. I found this when I was researching respect after a recent shooting.

The early part of the book involved a lot of head nodding and "yupping" because I recognized a lot of the behaviors. After 15 years of experience there wasn't a lot of new material, but it would have been nice to have this about 10 years ago. Other than
Lee (Rocky)
This book is an ethnography of the black inner city of Philadelphia. The first half of the book is very general, and full of assertions that are pretty obvious to anyone who knows just a little bit of history or pays attention to the news. It is also full of the author explaining slang terms, many of which were extremely common expressions that are ubiquitous across racial and socioeconomic lines. Several of these explanations were so unnecessary as to come across as sort of condescending (thoug ...more
Sep 05, 2014 Carolynne rated it really liked it
Unfortunately, this book was borrowed from a college library and I had to return it unfinished. As a future mental health counselor, I wanted to get some insight into the culture of "the street". I think Anderson did an excellent job of exploring this through the use of a particular Philadelphia neighborhood. I found myself continually distracted, however, by how "dated" this book is. Having been published in 1999, I had to question how much of the material he provides is still relevant. For exa ...more
Apr 01, 2012 Alissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture
Anyone who has experienced low socio-economic, inner-city culture should read this book! Some of it was new information. Most of it was not. But it put together a framework for understanding what I already knew in a different light. By doing so it answered a lot of questions I had that were left over from my previous experiences living in this culture for short periods of time. It's not a difficult read, it's entertaining, and very informative - well worth your time!
Anderson's ethnographic portrayal of urban life in (black) America through a journey down Philadelphia's historic Germantown Avenue, which connects the civility of nearly suburban Chestnut Hill and Philly's Mainline with the generally less civil society of Germantown proper and its outlying ghettos, where a Code of the Street old as poverty and oppression itself dominates the interactions of both willing and unwilling participants.
Mar 30, 2008 Devon rated it really liked it
Best ethnography of American urban poverty that I've been exposed to. Acknowledges the complex combinations of individual choices and social systems that lead people to get stuck in or make their way out of poverty. States the facts and leaves the value assessments to the reader. The intention was to explain the presence of drugs and violence, so it was a little light on the positive elements of this culture.
K. Jonee
"Code Of the Streets : Decency, Violence, and The Moral Life of the Inner City" by Elijah Anderson was a very chilling read that kept me engrossed due to its crass take on the realistic views of the inner city. This book is one of the best books I have ever read. It provided a lot of insight on life in the inner city as it applies to what is not seen by the naked eye. If you have not read this book yet, you definitely should.
Sep 03, 2016 Elise rated it it was ok
I had to read this for a sociology class. It was a somewhat interesting read overall but extremely repetitive. Each "novel" insight was mentioned at least 30 times throughout. I don't know how many times Anderson shared the observation of clothing as a status symbol out on "the streets".

The individual life accounts were a nice change of pace.

My suggestion:
Read the first few chapters and you'll get the gist of the whole thing. Actually just read the introduction.
Jul 30, 2008 Jessica rated it it was ok
This was well-hyped, and I was hoping Anderson would erase my doubts as to the integrity of ethnography as a science. He instead offers a moving portrayal of strained life in inner-city poverty, but there are too many inferences about the causes and too little evidence. I believe he loses his objectivity given the emotionally-rife subject matter. I wanted to be with him on this, I did, and still endorse this as a highly worthwhile read for his many personal insights.
Mar 02, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
I think I probably would have appreciated this book more had I read it when it was first published. Things have changed since 1999, not necessarily for the best or worst, but have changed none the less. It still made me realize no matter how many books I read on the subject of inner city living I will never understand it or know the whole story because I don't live it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor
  • Sidewalk
  • American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto
  • American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass
  • Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage
  • Street Corner Society: The Social Structure of an Italian Slum
  • Urban Villagers: Group and Class in the Life of Italian-Americans
  • Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City
  • Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life
  • No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City
  • Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960
  • Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood
  • Punishment and Inequality in America
  • In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio
  • Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place
  • The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City
  • The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity
  • Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women
Elijah Anderson holds the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professorship in Sociology at Yale University, where he teaches and directs the Urban Ethnography Project. His most prominent works include The Cosmopolitan Canopy and the award-winning books Code of the Street and Streetwise. His writings have also appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The New York Times Book Review. He lives in New Ha ...more
More about Elijah Anderson...

Share This Book