cover image STREET WARS: Gangs and the Future of Violence

STREET WARS: Gangs and the Future of Violence

, . . New Press, $24.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-876-4

A California state senator and the founder of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), Hayden (Reunion ) infuses this text with the idealism and passion for social justice for which he is well known. His central point is familiar: gang violence in areas like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago stems from the appalling social and economic conditions of inner-city life. But his exploration of the gang phenomenon's sociology is somewhat less tired: Hayden shows gang members, or homies, banding together to find connection, understanding and respect that is denied to them through pathways and social codes controlled by the more affluent. He includes vivid and involved anecdotes of the kind of gangland peacemaking attempts that he believes can, in addition to economic and social reform, save lives. He attacks the "tough on crime" mentality that, he charges, has resulted in decades of police brutality to homies and demonized them as urban terrorists. Hayden rambles on, but his arguments about the failures of the war on drugs and of the incarceration of young males to solve the endemic problems of poverty and alienation are compelling. (June)