Against the Current, No. 23, November/December 1989
The Collapse of Socialism?
— The Editors
A Salvadoran Fighter's Testimony
— Kathryn Savoie interviews Margarita
Free Cuban Human Rights Activists!
— ATC Editors
New Directions for Auto Workers
— Peter Downs
Eastern: What Should Be Learned?
— Steve Downs
Eastern Strikers Down, Not Out
— Andy Pollack
Pro-Choice Agendas After Webster
— Marlene Fried
Compulsory Heterosexuality & Lesbian Existence
— Ann Menasche
Crisis & Control of Soviet Labor, Part II
— Susan Weissman
Nicaragua: Observations on Economic Policy
— Keith Griffin
Nicaragua: Observations or Fallacies?
— John Weeks
Family Policy and Social Welfare
— Julia Wrigley
Family Policy--A Brief Rejoinder
— Stephanie Coontz
Random Shots: Kampfer's Consumer Guide
— R.F. Kampfer
China: The Roots of Worker Revolt
— Kim Moody
On a Revolutionary Agenda
— Michael Löwy
— Kent Worcester
STEPHANIE COONTZ (“The Pitfalls of Family Policy,” ATC 22) incisively argues that tie left should not develop a family policy. She points out that programs designed to prop up families don’t get at the roots of poverty. They deflect attention from structural inequalities, such as massive unemployment, that create hardship for families and individuals alike. Coontz also reminds us that families themselves can be oppressive, a feminist insight that has almost been forgotten in the conservatism of the 1980s.
Yet there is another, more provocative, theme in Coontz’s article. This theme is not always consistently stated, and Coontz seems to back away from it at points, but it underlies her case against a family policy.
Coontz expresses grave doubts about government social-welfare programs. She develops an argument that the modern privatized family arose jointly with the capitalist slate.
State officials wanted families strengthened because they provided bulwarks against more collective forms of solidarity. Coontz writes, “Both state institutions and private families in America were constructed in opposition to other forms of solidarity and mutual aid.”
Thus, Coontz emphasizes the repressive aspects of social- welfare programs. With reservations, she accepts a view popularized by Christopher Lasch and others, which stresses that government programs provided a vehicle for “experts” to intrude in the lives of others.
In this context Coontz is ambivalent even about public education. She acknowledges that previous forms of mutual aid and social welfare had failed, and that government programs were therefore necessary, but argues such programs were second-best alternatives to grassroots collective aid and support.
“[There were] several progressive, or at least necessary, aspects to the development of state education and welfare institutions. But it is important to understand that the twin ideals of an economically and emotionally self-sufficient private family and bureaucratically organized state were alternatives to the cooperative, egalitarian visions found in some sectors of the workers’ movement and even among many middle-class utopians.”
Coontz is not alone in her doubts about social-welfare programs. In the late 1960s, many radical writers argued that had been imposed on a reluctant working class as a means of social control.(1) This view has since declined in popularity, perhaps as sustained attacks on public education in the 1980s have made the left more aware of its value.
But from another angle, feminist writers have begun dissecting social-welfare programs and showing the sexism that has shaped them.(2) They have argued that government programs penalize those families deemed morally unfit, including, most particularly, women-headed households. More generally, they have decisively shown that men have more often received aid as a form of entitlement, while women have been subjected to humiliating interrogations and to supervision of their behavior, as in the notorious man-in-the-house” rules governing AFDC recipients.(3)
Coontz’s analysis has its own twists, but I would link it with this larger body of work that has raised doubts even among those on the left about how to evaluate struggles for social-welfare programs. Most conclude, as Coontz does herself, that on balance these programs have been “necessary” and progressive, but the tone has been grudging as is Coontz’s own.(4)
It is this doubt about social-welfare programs that I would like to address in this comment. I will argue that redistribution of economic burdens and caregiving burdens through social-welfare programs marks a tremendous working-class victory and also a positive step toward gender equality, in spite of the distorted and gender-biased nature of most such programs.
I will further argue that there is little reason to believe capitalists have supported the growth of family privacy in the way described by Coontz. I will take up this latter point first.
In suggesting that collective obligations have been undermined, Coontz argues that capitalists imposed notions of family privacy on working-class families, as well as on the more privileged.
It is hard, however, to read the history of American social-welfare policy and believe that capitalists put priority on reinforcing the nuclear family. Middle-class families used their resources to buy space, protection from outside disruption and a stable milieu where their children would associate with their class peels and absorb the cultural and educational values that would aid their social mobility.
Nineteenth and early twentieth-century working-class parents had a harder task. They had to struggle to keep their families together, a struggle made more desperate as standard forms of aid required that their children be taken away.
When parents proved unable to support their children, they often had no recourse but to put them in public institutions. Urban poverty resulted in hundreds of thousands of children being consigned to grim orphanages, even when they had a parent living.
Historians estimate that in New York City in the 1890s at least one in every thirty-five children lived in a public orphan asylum.(5) In 1899 the city cared for 15,000 children at a cost of $15 million.(6)
As the number of destitute families grew, it proved expensive to maintain the asylums, whatever the deprivation of the children within them. So established, however, was the practice of taking the children of the poor from their parents that middle-Class reform women who established day nurseries had to defend goal of keeping poor families together.(7)
Given this history, it is hard to see how capitalists worked to reinforce families. I would argue, rather, that a long and sorry history shows they care not at all for the families of the poor. They are happy to break them up if they believe that is the cheapest thing, as shown not only by early forms of aid that required the separation of parents and children, but also by the history of AFDC.
Coontz is not alone in arguing paradoxically, that AFDC’s history shows that capitalists put great value on families. Others have made this claim, usually arguing that the specially derogatory treatment meted out to AFDC recipients, as opposed to, say, social-security recipients, shows that those outside the moral boundaries of family life suffer a social penalty. The existence of the penalty shows the strength of the norm.
I think a more straightforward argument better fits the facts. Capitalists did not drive down the payments of AFDC recipients because of moral outrage and support for privatized families; rather, they used moral outrage to keep the poorest and least socially powerful people living at the barest subsistence.
They saved money by doing so and helped create a lasting stigma for social-welfare programs. They had the political means to oppress AFDC recipients, while working-class pressure elsewhere reduced their ability to treat other types of aid recipients in the same crudely demeaning manner.
If capitalists wanted to keep families together, why would they devise, and enforce, policies that deprive women and children of aid if they live with the child-ten’s father? To me, the message is clear: Families are expendable for those without the social power to demand the means to keep parents with children. Those without this social power, as in the case of many working-class families in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and many poor Black families much longer, can be denied even the right to maintain households shared by all family members.
The current immigration law shows continuing state indifference to families. The amnesty law excludes spouses and children of those legalized. More than 3 million people have gained the possibility of legal residence, but their families are not allowed to join them.
The resulting tragedies do not interest those who devised the law. In August 1989, a fourteen-year-old boy from Jalisco, Medco, tried to cross the bonier illegally to join his father, who had secured permanent resident status in Los Angeles. A border patrol vehicle ran him down and killed him. Mourners at his funeral recognized the risks but said they had no choice but to have their children run the gauntlet of border crossings.(8)
Ideology Versus Policy
This is not to deny that capitalists ideologically promote the family. They are more than happy to extol family life when it takes the socially legitimate form of a heterosexual couple with children. This, after all, gives license to attack all those who choose another mode of life, whether they be single mothers on welfare or gays or lesbians. These attacks create deep political divisions between different racial and ethnic groups and between those with different sexual preferences, and create a politically acceptable means of keeping welfare payments low.
For decades, politicians and establishment ideologues have attacked those receiving social, welfare benefits. They savage the poor as lazy and undeserving, and often, as cheats using government money for promiscuous life styles.
These attacks have had a political payoff. Many American workers are hostile toward those receiving welfare or unemployment insurance, despite their own economic vulnerability. Maintaining these perceptions helps those in power reduce social-welfare costs and limit political challenges.
But this is only part of the story. While they may talk a good game, capitalists have not rushed to support those lauded as upholding family values. For the most part, differences in the political and economic power of groups explain variations in their treatment. Single mothers on AFDC lack the political strength of unionized, blue-collar workers. The U.S. social-welfare system discriminates against those in seasonal, domestic, or irregular employment.
Industrial workers do much better, but they have only won unemployment insurance, old-age assistance and disability benefits through political struggles. Corporate leaders have opposed benefits that might reduce workers’ need for a job or willingness to accept low wages.
These economic interests override ideological interests in promoting one particular type of family. United States politicians and employers fight tooth and nail against the principle of universalism—the provision of benefits to all, without regard to need or ‘moral’ status—because they recognize its enormous political risk. Such programs found in many Western European social democracies, help unify the poor and the working class (while obtaining some middle-class support), and they cost a lot of money. Ideological pronouncements about families are window dressing but do not affect this larger political equation.
Coontz believes that state officials wanted to reinforce families to reduce the power of other collectivities. As part of this, she suggests that government programs were second-best alternatives to more collective forms of mutual aid in working-class communities.
This links to a broader argument Coontz makes about what she terms the “crisis of social obligation.” In her view, capitalist social relations have helped create a withdrawal from individual commitment and a sense of caring and obligation between people.
No longer do people willingly shoulder the burden of caring for dependents. Instead, they pass such obligations off to the government or other institutions. Rather than accepting a cycle of dependency and caring, where they are sometimes in the debt of others and sometimes the ones doing the giving, they have a narrow “tit-for-tat” view of social obligation.
This argument has several problems. Coontz does not describe alternative forms of mutual aid that could have been developed as opposed to state-funded programs. She writes that cooperative working-class communities and middle-class utopians had other visions of how to provide social support, but she does not tell us what they were.
In reality, other forms of social welfare had decisively failed long before government programs were established in the United States. Utopians may have envisioned other ways to organize aid, but concretely, people needed to organ-ire political struggles to secure concessions from employers and from the state. Within this historical reality, those with socialist or radical views sought the most progressive alternatives.
In practice, only the government has the resources to really redistribute care-giving burdens. Caring for dependents requires sustained commitment and sustained resources. By the early twentieth century, the great majority of American children, even in the South, stayed in school at least from ages six to twelve.(9)
This meant that parents had long periods when they had to support their children, and they often had the burden of aged parents as well. Social provision for the care of dependents was extremely limited, with the needy thrown back on the grossly inadequate resources of their communities. Black women, whatever their family status, faced exceedingly harsh and discriminatory treatment; of the small amounts of aid that were available from public and private sources, they got the least and were often excluded altogether.(10)
Given the economic vulnerability facing the great majority of the population, it is not surprising that in the United States, as elsewhere, government social-welfare programs had enormous appeal in promising some basic security. To achieve this security, including such programs as old-age pensions and expanded public schooling, required intense and lengthy political struggle, with setbacks as have occurred during the 1980s. In all the Western capitalist states, working-class parties and trade unions have fought during the twentieth century for medical care, old-age assistance, public housing, aid to the handicapped, children’s support and public education.
Of course, the historical reality of how American social-welfare programs were won is complex. Particularly at the state and local level, middle-class reformers were often influential in shaping benefits and in administering programs. In some states and cities, middle-class women took the initiative in formulating American social-welfare policy, while in countries such as Germany a rigid male-dominated state bureaucracy allowed no room for outsiders.(11)
Urban middle-Class reformers generally had a different agenda from corporate leaders, being both more interested in social control and less concerned about program costs. Some of these reformers supported the labor movement, at least erratically, while others were much closer to business interests. The shape of programs depended in part on the pattern of alliances.(12)
Why Capital Resists
Depending on the class forces and social conditions in different countries, some social-welfare benefits were easier to gain than others. In some countries, conservatives had reasons for supporting particular social-welfare benefits. In France and Germany, for example, of-forts to secure various forms of children’s aid were eased by nationalistic and right-1st concern over falling birth rates. Children had value as future workers and as army conscripts.(13)
In some parts of the United States, efforts to secure public education were similarly eased by conservative concern over the socialization of immigrants. However generally capitalists resisted such programs, both because they are very expensive and because the working class is harder to drive into submission if it has basic economic, educational and medical rights.
In the United States, capitalists and state officials have resisted expansion of the welfare state with particular ferocity. The lack of a working-class political party has meant there has been little leverage for securing medical and social rights.(14)
The United States has such an incomplete social-welfare package that referring to it as a “welfare state,” as do many academic writers, seems a cruel joke. Its social-welfare are not only limited in scope, but deformed by means tests and other stigmatizing features designed to restrict benefits and create intraclass resentment Women have suffered the most from these features, which are most evident in pro-grains such as AFDC.
We need to recognize clearly, though, that while women have been specially victimized by gender-biased policies, they have paradoxically also gained greatly from expanded social services. Because women live longer than men, they make up the bulk of social-security recipients, even though men are favored by rules governing eligibility and benefits.
Less directly, social-welfare benefits have aided women by reducing burdens that have traditionally fallen to them. As the chief caregivers for children and the elderly, the two main categories of dependents benefit when these groups receive forms of social aid, such as public education and medical care, that lessen women’s caregiving tasks.
Thus, in spite of important gender bias in social-welfare programs, women’s freedom and autonomy have been fostered by a slow and partial shift in caregiving burdens away from individual women, including, most particularly, women in their roles as mothers and daughters.
Even the partial attainment of social-welfare benefits, in however cramped and distorted a form, has been a striking political victory. And correspondingly, the stripping away of those benefits in the United States and Britain in the last decade has been a sharp political loss. Just as there was no agency or community that could pick up the slack in the nineteenth century, there is none now.
Declining social programs mean hardship and, since the economic and practical burdens of caregiving must be shifted onto individuals, this decline can lead to strained personal relationships between caregivers and dependents. While Coontz stresses the shifting of obligations to others, it can work the other way. Where caregiving burdens are too great for caregivers, resentment and desperation can undermine attachment.
Social-welfare programs, by making burdens manageable, do not remove personal obligations between people. They merely remove the vulnerability that can make people shy from commitments.
Those with handicapped children, for instance, do not have reduced love or responsibility for them simply because their children might get social-welfare services (all too rare these days). Instead, the services can lighten parents’ daily sense of responsibility and make it easier for them to have emotional energy to direct toward their children.
It is where resources are fewest, as in the case of young Black men in the vast U.S. ghettoes, that obligations to others are the hardest to take on and meet Rather than seeing informal obligation and social services delivered through the government as in some sense counter-posed, as Coontz seems to, I would view them as mutually reinforcing.
It is true that government social-welfare programs can promote individual autonomy, allowing people can make new choices about how to live. As noted in a recent report, “In the past, if a woman experienced divorce, became a widow, or had a child prior to marriage, she was likely to move into the household of relatives.”(15) Since 1960, many such women have headed their own families.
AFDC payments allow single mothers to leave their parents’ homes, and they increasingly do so. When the aged began getting social-security payments and pensions, fewer chose to live with their adult children.(16)
Similarly, increased control of resources made women freer to leave bad marriages and divorce rates rose, despite such women suffering an almost sure decline in their standard of living. These changes suggest that social obligations between adults have often been underwritten by economic need as much as by sentiment. Where economic dependence plays a smaller role, people may opt for kinds of autonomy and for sexual freedom that only small minorities could sustain in the past.
Although Coontz recognizes the restrictiveness of traditional families, she also sometimes seem uneasy about changes that promote certain types of individualism. By emphasizing ties of obligation and dependence between people, she minimizes claims for autonomy. She writes:
“Historically, socialists used to talk about obligations as well as rights, people’s communal duties as well as their personal rewards. Such is the meaning of slogans about taking from each according to ability, giving to each according to need. Stalinist distortions of these slogans have rightly made us wary of abstract proclamations about the need to sacrifice for the ‘common good.’ But have we also not been influenced too much by the bourgeois rhetoric of individual rights?”
This raises its own problems. Who, after all, will determine what social obligations need honoring? Who will determine what kinds of dependence should be encouraged? l think we would do better to build upon hard-won notions of individual rights and consider how to expand them in a new form of society.
Limits of Community Social Support
Coontz does see value in social welfare, but she believes there are better ways for people to help each other, ways that would reinforce social relations between people. This argument made me think of Boston’s ‘defended’ white working-class communities and how they provide social support for their members.
In the 1980s, I spent several periods in Boston doing interviews with working-class women and men who had been active in the 1974 anti-busing movement. Of course, this was a racist movement, and neighborhoods such as South Boston and Charlestown were notorious for their hostility toward Blacks and others they defined as outsiders.
These neighborhoods, however, had the strengths as well as the weaknesses of their cohesion. Many antibusing activists told me proudly that their communities took care of their own. In some cases, I dismissed these comments as part of the attempt to portray the communities as idyllic before the arrival of busing. Other people interviewed, however, gave compelling accounts of community generosity when families suffered misfortune They said this was part of the ethic of their neighborhoods; living without much savings or extra resources, everyone recognized their vulnerability to unemployment, illness or accident.(17) They described how, when families were burnt out, neighbors arrived with checks and clothes.
More prosaically, it was clear that there were vast networks for providing social support among the women. Working-class women made up the backbone of the antibusing movement. They were freed to go to meetings and demonstrations by mothers, sisters and neighbors who took care of their children.
One antibuser said she was known as “Southie’s babysitter,” a designation I could believe when I saw how readily these women shared their daily tasks, a readiness I hardly ever see among time-conscious, middle-class women struggling to advance in their jobs while looking after their families.
Coontz, of course, would not consider these antibusing communities to be socially progressive or models of what she would like to see. Yet their experience tells us something about the possibilities and limits of informal, community responsibility for the needy and for dependents.
Above all, to me it indicates that it is only in socially homogeneous neighborhoods that people are likely to find extensive aid and social support. These neighborhoods, suffer from the problems of their homogeneity; they are usually highly traditional and racially exclusionary.18 Not only do they have negative and suspicious attitudes toward outsiders, but they impose a cost on the “insiders” who may receive aid but then find it hard to defy community pressures.
Those rare South Boston residents who actually supported the desegregation order, or at least did not oppose it, suffered extreme community harassment, to the point that some had to have police protection. People were afraid to get out of line. As one woman I interviewed said, “In South Boston, you know your place.” To receive the privileges of living in a mutually supportive community, people had to pay the price.
Such tightly bonded neighborhoods are becoming rarer in U.S. cities. Even South Boston and Charlestown are slowly changing under the pressures of real-estate development.
Big cities undermine the type of neighborhood solidarity that allowed for social support. Such neighborhoods are, increasingly, an anachronism, and as socialists we cannot mourn their passing because they reinforced race and gender oppression.
The fierce but narrow solidarity of neighborhoods like South Boston and Charlestown could never aid a transformative political movement; the neighborhoods would have to first be transformed themselves.
Some working-class communities generally based in industry or mining, combine traditions of collective support with those of worker militancy, while avoiding the extreme parochialism of Boston’s neighborhoods.
Historically such communities, whether in Western mining towns or the auto districts of Detroit; have stood as the backbone of working-class movements. Their histories often offer examples of remarkable solidarity in the face of hardship.
These come the closest to the political ideal that Coontz describes, but even here, there can be problems of dependency between people and racial segregation and isolation.(19)
Finally, in spite of the emphasis on mutual support in Boston’s working-class neighborhoods and elsewhere, most such communities also lacked the resources to really help those who needed aid. Strong residential segregation means that generally the poor live among the poor and the rich live as far from them as possible. Many have remarked on the generosity and collective spirit of the poor as compared with the rich, but there are great limits to what they can do.
Building Political Strength
To really provide aid for the elderly, as just one example, is very expensive, and it is beyond the resources of friends and neighbors except in rare circumstances. Communities can help their members, but seldom do they take on the actual economic support of individuals. The serious care of dependents must be underwritten by the state, as the only entity capable of providing the range of social services required by those who are not economically self-supporting.
Not only do economic realities suggest that demands on the state are the only way to attain decent social services, but there are great political advantages to pressing these demands.
First, social-welfare proms involve rights, not privileges.(20) People should not have to feel gratitude to others for receiving basic medical care and they should not have to bow to community pressures to receive various forms of aid. More broadly, working-class political strength is enhanced when people do not risk their most basic security, including medical care and pensions, by risking their jobs.
This is one reason capitalists have so strongly opposed expanded social- welfare benefits. Capitalists have every reason to cut back even such programs as food stamps when workers go on strike; how more political reason, they have to keep workers from broader social-welfare benefits that would persist regardless of job status.
Second, by making universalistic demands, people can be mobilized across lines of race, neighborhood and region. Political demands on the state can raise consciousness in a way that localistic demands, programs and networks cannot.
For working-class groups to win even limited gains requires broad political engagement. This does not mean that demands on the state can replace demands on employers, but they can supplement each other, as they have historically where working-class parties have been strong.
And lastly, once programs are in place, history shows that beneficiaries do not lightly give up what they have gained. Even the most oppressed people, such as those receiving AFDC, have mounted remarkably courageous and impressive battles to expand their rights during times of broader political militancy.
Coontz is right that these demands can be formulated in such a way as to encourage individual caregiving responsibilities, as in the case of asking for child-care that is near parents’ workplaces. We also need to think through the gender implications of different types of social welfare programs, something that, incidentally, women in working-class parties have done.(21)
Simple comparison with societies such as Sweden shows that the United States has not even come close to a minimum package of social-welfare programs. The longstanding socialist goal of expanding such programs has dual value in building people’s consciousness for greater political changes and as a way of improving people’s lives even within capitalist societies.
- Julia Wrigley, Class Politics and Public Schools (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1982).
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- For a representative view, see Seth Koven and Sonya Michel, “Gender and the Origins of the Welfare State,” Radical History Review 43(1989): 112-119.
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- Mimi Abramovitz, Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present (Boston: South End Press, 1988).
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- See Barbara J. Nelson, “The Gender, Race, and Class Origins of Early Welfare Policy and the Welfare State: A Comparison of Workmen’s Compensation and Mothers’ Aid,” in Patricia Gurin and Louise Tilly., eds., Women in Twentieth Century Politics (New York: Russell Sage, 1987).
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- Catherine J. Ross, “Early Skirmishes with Poverty: The Historical Roots of Head Start,” Project Head Start, Edward Zigler and Jenette Vallentine, eds. (New York: Free Press, 1979) 21-42, 27.
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- Bernard Greenblatt, Responsibility for Child Care (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1977) 37.
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- Julia Wrigley, “Children’s Caregivers and Ideologies of Parental Inadequacy,” Circles of Care, Emily Abel and Magaret Nelson, eds. (Albany: SUNY Press, forthcoming).
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- Los Angeles Times, Sept 1, 1989: Al.
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- F.A. Ross, School Attendance in 1920. Census Monograph 5. (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census, 1924).
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- Jean H. Quataert, “Women’s Work and the Early Welfare State in Germany: Legislators, Bureaucrats and Clients before the First World War.” Paper delivered at conference on Gender and the Emergence of the Welfare State, Harvard University, February, 198; Kathryn Kish Sklar, “Doing the Nation’s Work”: Florence Kelley and Women’s Political Culture, 1830-1930, forthcoming.
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- William J. Reese, Power and the Promise of School Reform (New York: Methuen, 1986); and Sklar.
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- Christoph Sachsse, “Social Mothers, Feminism and Welfare State Formation in Germany, 1890-1929.” Paper delivered at conference on Women and Welfare State Formation, Center for European Studies, Harvard University November 14, 1987.
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- Walter Korpi, “Power, Politics, and State Autonomy in the Development of Social Citizenship: Social Rights during Sickness in Eighteen OECD Countries Since 1930,” American Sociological Review 54 (June 1989): 309-328.
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- Committee on the Status of Black Americans, A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989) 519. See also Heidi L Hartmann, “Changes In Women’s Economic and Family Roles In Post-World War II United States,” Women, Households and the Economy, eds. Lourdes Beneria and Catharine R. Stimpson (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987) 33-44.
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- Those in low-wage, irregular employment often do not receive pensions, which means they have few choices about living arrangements. Among the country’s elderly Latinos, for example, there is widespread poverty. Only 29% receive pensions, compared with 45% of the elderly overall. This poverty means that more than a third of elderly Latinos must live with children or other relatives. In a national sample of 2,229 elderly Latinos, more than a third reported that this dependence constituted their biggest problem. See “Many Elder1yLatinos Face Daily Struggle, Report Says,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 14, 1989: A17.
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- Carol Stack, in All Our Kin (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), argues that much the same type of social support and solidarity can be found in poor Black communities.
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- See Jonathan Rieder’s Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn against Liberalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985) for a description of such a neighborhood In New York City. Rieder comments that “the old neighborhoods were founded on strong personal ties and mistrust of formal agents of help such as experts, government, and law” (33). He adds, though, that these communities had their drawbacks: “By affirming the natural comforts of living in a familiar community of the like-minded, it justified closed neighborhoods, employment markets, and unions” (33).
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- In a study of industrial workers in New Jersey, David Halle found that older workers mourned the decline of helping relations between friends and relatives. Halle notes, though “Of course these traditional exchanges were often unequal and, especially in the context of the family, sometimes suffused with tension, exploitation, and struggles for power. Now greater financial independence makes possible greater social and personal independence. Young people who have left school and cannot find work, or who lose a job, can eke out an admittedly sparse existence on government programs as an alternative to being supported by parents or kin. Parents who retire… can live on a pension and Social Security without their children being ‘forced’ to support them.” America’s Working Man: Work, Home and Politics Among Blue Collar Property Owners (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 47.
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- Pat Thane, “Women in the Labour Party: The Making of Social Policy in Britain, 1906-1950.” Paper presented at conference on Gender and the Origins of the Welfare State, Center for European Studies, Harvard University, 1987.
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November-December 1989, ATC 23