The Public Interest

Virtue and poverty

Peter Berkowitz

Summer 2001

UNTIL recently, for many intellectuals and policy experts, virtue was more than a suspect concept bound up with a bygone era and an outmoded worldview. Virtue, for them, signified a crude, blame-the-victim approach to reform, a code for the exercise by the Haves of social control over the Have-Nots, a hypocritical cover under which smug moral scolds and self-righteous religious enthusiasts diverted attention from the root causes of poverty in America, material deprivation and discrimination. To such critics, arguments from virtue demonstrated moral and intellectual vice.

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