Studies on poverty had always gone beyond their scientific aim itself, leading to the search for solutions and to draw lines of intervention, so assigning to the scientific observer a not fully neutral position. The fact that the explanations of phenomena never completely separate from the solutions of social problems introduces an unavoidable pragmatic and axiological perspective. Studies on the condition of the poor contain an ethical commitment that makes them both a witness of an era, and a representation of its cultural and political milieu. In the last decades of XX century, during the Welfare State crisis and the post-Fordist transformations, a revival of the reflection on poverty has been seen. The debate on the underclass fits in that historical transition and offers interesting reflexive ideas to understand the present. This essay reconstructs that debate by taking into account the main elaborations of the underclass theory and their political and values orientations.
Keywords: Urban poverty, segregation, welfare state, underclass, post-Fordism, USA.