chapter  11
22 Pages

Illiteracy, Improper Literacy and the Development of an Underclass

To speak of an underclass is to speak of reproduced subordination at the bottom-most level of society and on a large scale: of a mass of people experiencing extreme disadvantage, privation and marginalization along (at least) economic, political and cultural lines, being reproduced from generation to generation. An underclass endures; it does not come and go in a generation or two. Those who are the underclass in a given generation are overwhelmingly the offspring of those who were the underclass in the previous generation. There is a growing belief among social and political theorists on the left in New Zealand that the emergence of a permanent underclass is highly likely given the process of economic restructuring currently underway – with its implications for (un)employment, a more extreme distribution of wealth and the withering away of the social wage.