These assertations and rumors of Ray's ruthlessness and even cruelty were an integral part of his effectiveness at running his network of crackhouses smoothly. Regular displays of violence are essential for preventing rip-offs by colleagues, customers, and professional hold-up artists. Indeed, upward mobility in the underground economy of the street-dealing world requires a systematic and effective use of violence against one's colleagues, one's neighbor's, and, to a certain extent, against oneself. Behavior that appears irrationally violent, "barbaric," and ultimately self-destructive to the outsider, can be reinterpreted according to the logic of the underground economy as judicious public relations and long-term investment in one's "human capital development."The point here is not to make an approving moral judgement, it is to set judgements aside to study how a society works.
Another point occured to me as I was reading the book. The first chapter is called, "Violating Apartheid in the United States." This isn't a random slur on the country, but something backed up by observations of racism form a number of sources, including white police officers who thought a white drug-addict (which Bourgois was mistaken for) should be getting his crack from other whites, not Latinos. A fanatical campaing for purging leftism from academica could easily bar this book for daring to make these observations, keeping students from this informative and fascinating first in social science.