To a greater or lesser extent, in all modern societies one subculture cuts across other social divisions: the subculture of the poor. One can dispute who the poor are and how large a proportion of any society they include. Here, I do not mean to refer only to the miserable. Degrees of material
scarcity lie along curves, though it is undeniably difficult to specify a threshold where "affluence" ends and "poverty" begins (even if the Department of Labor tells us that about one-quarter of Americans live below the "poverty line"). But it is not difficult to identify groups "who have enough to do to keep themselves alive" without going to the Bowery.
The point I want to make is this: the behavior of the poor, even in highly developed, "achieving" societies, conforms more with the generalization that actions are taken to avoid pain, not to attain pleasure, that is, to cope with pain, or minimize it, or to minimize its very perception. Another way to put this guards at the start against the argument that avoiding pain is simply the reverse of attaining pleasure—part of the rational calculus—rather than being qualitatively different. Behavior by the poorer segments of societies is more like what Norman Maier called frustration-instigated behavior than what he called motivation-instigated behavior. In his study of Southern Appalachians, Richard Ball evocatively called such behavior analgesic ; the word is apt because analgesia literally is a condition of insensibility to pain.
Such behavior should be regarded as not being oriented toward attaining goals at all: what better way to be insensible to failures and resultant frustrations? It is comparable to what Merton and other writers on social adaptation call "retreatist" behavior: withdrawing into apathy or into small, sheltered worlds of self-limited activity. It also appears to have other traits hardly consistent with being motivated to attain goals efficiently, which I will discuss presently.