This chapter explicates the conceptual context which governed the study of underclass life. It discusses the relevance of the concepts of social deviance, the culture of poverty, and community, and explains how these concepts were operationalized into an applicable methodological framework. Social thinkers and sociologists have wrestled with the idea of social deviance in terms of both its conceptualization and its relationship to other social phenomenon. Oscar Lewis, the anthropologist who originated the concept of a "culture of poverty" describes it as both an adaption and a reaction of the poor to their marginal position in a class-stratified, highly individuated, capitalistic society. Community, as a social entity, is seen in largely symbolic terms such that the basic social process is that of evaluative interaction. The Single-room occupancy community defines in terms of its various social networks. In terms of community, the last issue to be considered is the system of social differentiation that considers the allocation of prestige and power.