Banfield’s Back

Jim Cramer, Harvard Crimson, August 1, 1975.


What mostly upsets Banfield’s critics is that he finds that there is no urban crisis–or at least no crisis that can’t be corrected by that conservative weapon of time. And he makes it explicit that he wants time and only time to solve problems–not federally-funded aid programs to the poor, like housing programs under the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Office of Economic Opportunity that President Nixon cut back drastically while Banfield was his urban consultant. In Banfield’s book these programs only serve to exacerbate problems of city-dwellers.

But that isn’t all. His hardline “pragmatic conservatism” (which has liberals reeling because it scorns their programs aimed at the heart of the poverty cycle) has its roots in principles violently antithetical to the radicals, such as SDS and the Committee Against Racism, two groups that shouted Banfield down during a lecture he gave at the University of Chicago last year. These principles are expressed in Banfield’s theory of the class imperative. To Banfield the problems that do exist in the city, although minor ones compared to earlier days, are problems not of economic distribution or political power, but of cultural class–particularly the culture of the “lower class.”

Harvard Crimson