Dr Dalrymple works at the very bottom of our society. As a psychologist in a hospital within an area where unemployment is running at 25% and crime is rife, he has frequent contact with prisoners, drug addicts, domestic violence victims (and perpetrators), the homeless, teenage mothers, and prisoners of all classes, from the petty thief to hardened gangland murderers. Over the years of treating these people and listening to their stories, he has realised that there is a common theme to their lives, and at the centre of this tragedy lies British society itself.
The social revolution of post-war Britain was lead by a wave of middle-class intellectual and educational thinking that broke with the past and began to describe human behaviour as a function purely of conditioning. Liberate these people from the social orders that restrict their ability to develop and these individuals will flourish. Furthermore, if an individual’s behaviour is purely as a result of conditioning, then the concept of individual responsibilities within society also vanishes. Dr Dalrymple has crashed into the end result of this social revolution, the creation of ‘The Underclass’, a people that belong to a world of subsistence and despair, living in a world with no direction, meaning or hope.
The Underclass have been liberated, liberated sexually from the confines of monogamy and marriage, to instead live lives of that only give pretence to normal family life, but in reality involve broken relationships, abandoned women and children, teenage pregnancies and rocketing numbers of domestic violence victims as frequent casual relationships lead inevitably to the unleashing of that ugliest of human characteristics, male jealousy. The Underclass have been liberated, liberated personally from taking responsibility for their actions. Within the underclass of violent criminals, it is they who now see themselves as the victim. Victims of circumstance, and are not prepared to accept that they are personally responsible for stabbing to death an innocent person, or robbing pensioners to feed a drug habit. None are prepared to accept that they have a choice and have to take responsibility for their actions and how they live their lives. The Underclass have been liberated, liberated to merely exist without direction. With nothing to strive for, their lives become engulfed in tedium, daytime television and clinical depression that have lead to rocketing numbers of cases of attempted suicide.
One has to bear in mind when reading this book that only a relatively small, if growing, proportion of people are affected to such a brutal extent, and that all societies have groups that struggle to make a success of their lives, however ‘Life at the Bottom’ is more than a collection of individual stories; it strikes at the heart of the flaws associated with individual libertarian thinking and provide a terrible testament to its effect on our society.