The Limits of Voluntarism: Charity and Welfare from the New Deal through the Great Society

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The Depression and the New Deal forced charities into a new relationship with public welfare. After opposing public “relief” for a generation, charities embraced it in the 1930s as a means to save a crippled voluntary sector from collapse. Welfare was to be delivered by public institutions, which allowed charities to offer and promote specialized therapeutic services such as marriage counseling – a popular commodity in postwar America. But as Andrew Morris shows, these new alignments were never entirely stable. In the 1950s, charities’ ambiguous relationship with welfare drove them to aid in efforts to promote welfare reform by modeling new techniques for dealing with “multiproblem families.” The War on Poverty, changes in federal social service policy, and the slow growth of voluntary fundraising in the late 1960s undermined the New Deal division of labor and offered charities the chance to deliver public services – the paradigm at the heart of current debates on public funding of religious non-profits.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Andrew Morris shows the persistence of the voluntary agency in America’s social welfare provision in this engaging and well-researched book. In the process he makes a contribution that will alter the course of scholarship on the American welfare state.” -Edward D. Berkowitz, George Washington University

"Andrew Morris has provided a meticulously researched and persuasively argued volume. It totally nullifies the longstanding myth of a distinctive 'independent sector' of nonprofit voluntary organizations that have been operationally distinct from governmental agencies and programs. Morris accomplishes this task by delineating the emergence of 'New Alignments' that thrived between the 1930s and the 1970s (and, if to a lesser extent, beyond). This was an interval when voluntary nonprofit agencies helped direct and partially fund public as well as private institutional social welfare ventures and attendant policies. Thanks to Morris and a few other very capable scholars, it has become problematic for participants in the field of philanthropic studies to belittle the intense interpenetration of voluntary associations and government agencies." -Lawrence J. Friedman, Professor of Philanthropic Studies and Emeritus Professor of History, Indiana University and Visiting Scholar, Harvard University

"In this pathbreaking work, Andrew J. F. Morris of Union College moves in a strikingly original direction to examine voluntary efforts from the 1920s to the 1970s." -Patrick D. Reagan, Journal of American History

" important contribution both to the understanding of modern social welfare history and to the issues that continue to confound policy makers, practioners, and scholars." -Michael Reisch, Social Service Review

"Not since Roy Lubove's The Professional Altruist: The Emergence of Social Work as a Career, 1880-1930 (1965) and Michael Katz's In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America (1986) have I been so moved by a historical text covering American welfare." -American Historical Review

"Although many of the historical events Morris describes will be familiar to scholars of social welfare, provocative primary documents are integrated into this historical treatise that make it well worth the read." -F. Ellen Netting, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly

"This well written and carefully researched book will be use to scholars and students in a wide variety of disciplines." -Mark Hendrickson, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521889575
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2008
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Morris is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia, where he received a Miller Center Fellowship in National Politics. He has published several articles, including 'The Voluntary Sector's War on Poverty', winner in 2006 of the Ellis Hawley Award from the Journal of Policy History for best article by a junior scholar.

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Table of Contents

1. New alignments; 2. Selling service; 3. Defending welfare; 4. Hope for hopeless families; 5. The voluntary sector's war on poverty; 6. Re-alignments - the nonprofit sector and the contracting state.

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