Must-read: Karen M. Tani: Introduction to “States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1972”

Must-Read: I gotta get this book. I gotta read this book…

Karen M. Tani: Introduction to States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1972: “States of Dependency provides a new account of welfare law and policy…

…in the twentieth-century United States, and through it, a revised portrait of modern American governance. The book begins amid the Great Depression, with the insertion of federal money and federal rules into what had been a highly decentralized system of poor relief. Reformers hoped to use federal funds to ‘modernize’ that system – to make it more bureaucratic, centralized, expert-driven, and uniform. Drawing on original archival research, States of Dependency traces the fate of these efforts. The book analyzes federal administrators’ encounters with traditions of localism, federalism, and hostility toward the ‘undeserving poor.’ It also links these encounters to particular tactics, such as the mobilization of rights language and the use of strategic litigation. The result, four decades later, was a more legalistic and federalized public welfare apparatus, as well an expanded definition of national citizenship, but also a system of governance that sanctioned and perpetuated vast inequalities.

April 6, 2016


Brad DeLong
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