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Welfare's End
     

Welfare's End

by Gwendolyn Mink
 

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With its analysis of the thirty-year campaign to reform and ultimately to end welfare, Gwendolyn Mink's book is a searing indictment of anti-welfare politicians' assault on poor mothers. Mink charges that the basic elements of the welfare policy subordinate poor single mothers in a separate system of law. Mink points to the racial, class, and gender biases of both

Overview

With its analysis of the thirty-year campaign to reform and ultimately to end welfare, Gwendolyn Mink's book is a searing indictment of anti-welfare politicians' assault on poor mothers. Mink charges that the basic elements of the welfare policy subordinate poor single mothers in a separate system of law. Mink points to the racial, class, and gender biases of both liberals and conservatives to explain the odd but sturdy consensus supporting welfare reforms that force the poor single mother to relinquish basic rights and compel her to find economic security in work outside the home. For this revised and updated edition, the author has replaced the previous final chapter with an entirely new chapter discussing welfare policy decisions since 1998 and assessing prospects for women on welfare under the Bush administration.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In her solid history of the struggle over welfare, Mink . . . takes aim at politicians who target poor women. Mink's essential point is that welfare is a guarantee of women's equality. It's vital, she says, not only for women's human rights but also for the strength of democracy to view welfare not as a subsidy for dependence (which it largely is not) or as an income substitution for the loss of a breadwinner (which it was first intended to be) but as an income owed to those who work inside the home by raising children. Mink's arguments counter the myths of welfare dependency and she is able to make a compelling case for positions that are far out of the mainstream of current politics. This is a well-reasoned and eye-opening book. . . . Anyone interested in these topics should be intrigued."—Publishers Weekly

"At last—a serious counterthrust against the popular self-interested praise for welfare reform. Mink . . . goes beyond questioning myths, exposing hypocrisy, and offering sympathy; she offers a positive argument for welfare as a fundamental right. . . . Mink argues that we have gone beyond heartlessness and denied poor, single mothers a necessary element of citizenship."—Kirkus Reviews

"In her survey of the three-decade battle against welfare, Mink exposes the 'undeserving poor' roots of hostility toward those who receive government help and the racial, class, and gender biases of liberals and conservative alike, who could view middle-class moms' caregiving as uncompensated work, while poor mothers' caregiving isn't work at all. Welfare's End is a penetrating critique of 'reform' assumptions."—Booklist

"The feminist movement has been much criticized, from within and without, for its failure to take up the issues and win the hearts of poor and minority women. In Welfare's End, Gwendolyn Mink, a political science professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, deepens that critique and offers a path toward remedy. . . . Welfare's End contributes to the welfare of the social movements Mink critiques, as well as to the welfare recipients for whom she is such a convincing spokeswoman."—San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle

"A highly informative book. . . . Welfare's End gives us much food for thought. It shifts the focus away from behavior modification for poor women and toward a public policy that protects and enhances the rights of all women. This slim but provocative book should be read by anyone seeking alternatives to the current conservative policy agenda and anyone interested in broader social change."—Mimi Abramovitz, The Progressive

"This is, without a doubt, the most important book I have read in the last five years. I do not make that claim lightly. It is a must read for anyone interested in social policy reform. . . Mink's call for welfare justice is controversial and timely and should provoke everyone to rethink their position on welfare reform. I encourage everyone to read it and then passit on to a friend and/or colleague."—Margaret Little, Queen's University. Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 34, No. 2

"Welfare's End is the first book to tell the whole truth about the end of welfare as we knew it. Mink demonstrates that welfare was stigmatized by a bipartisan, conservative coalition, transforming AFDC from a national measure to enable poor single mothers to raise their own children into a state welfare police system. Mink concludes with an original and practical path toward real, and honorable, reform. This book cannot be taken lightly by anyone."—Theodore Lowi, Cornell University

"Gwendolyn Mink examines the recent welfare debacle by focusing clearly and steadfastly on the impact of the new policies on women. With passion, intelligence, and good information, she shows the damage likely to be inflicted not only on the material conditions of poor women, but on their moral values and on their very rights as citizens. A timely book that we all need to read."—Frances Fox Piven, co-editor of Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Charged with chasing middle-class women back into the home while chasing poor women out, American conservatives have recently come under attack for this perceived contradiction in their attitudes. In her solid history of the struggle over welfare, Mink, a professor of political science at UC-Santa Cruz and a longtime campaigner for welfare reform, takes aim at politicians who target poor women. Mink's essential point is that welfare is a guarantee of women's equality. It's vital, she says, not only for women's human rights but also for the strength of democracy to view welfare not as a subsidy for dependence (which it largely is not) or as an income substitution for the loss of a breadwinner (which it was first intended to be) but as an income owed to those who work inside the home by raising children. The campaign to make fathers support their children, which is a widely favored tactic, actually can have the effect of forcing the mother to be dependent on a man she may want nothing to do with. Thus the freedom to choose her own company is effectively taken from her. Mink's arguments counter the myths of welfare dependency and she is able to make a compelling case for positions that are far out of the mainstream of current politics. This is a well-reasoned and eye-opening book, and one hopes Mink's departure from the debate's current narrow focus will not lose her the audience she deserves. Anyone interested in these topics should be intrigued by the way she has shifted the grounds of the discussion. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
At last—a serious counterthrust against the popular self-interested praise for welfare reform. Even if you hated the recently abolished welfare system, the glee with which the poor were demonized could be discomforting. There is something unseemly about observing the well-to-do chastising the impoverished and then preparing to reap the financial benefits. In response Mink (Political Science/Univ. of Calif., Santa Cruz) goes beyond questioning myths, exposing hypocrisy, and offering sympathy; she offers a positive argument for welfare as a fundamental right. In this society, mothers are unpaid workers. If they're also single and poor, they are workers uniquely at risk: While their occupation is essential and usually highly praised, if they pursue it seriously, they will find themselves in dire straits. Welfare originated in this country as a solution to this quandary, a recognition that women with children lacking a working husband or independent financial means need assistance if they are to function as mothers. In the prosperous 1990s, we have cast aside this commitment, and Mink argues that we have gone beyond heartlessness and denied poor, single mothers a necessary element of citizenship. Moreover, establishing parenting as a right and recognizing the need to support it would lessen gender inequality where it really counts: care-giving to children. In fact, of course, the odds of a popular upswell in this direction are dismal. Despite lip service given to traditional concerns and family values, welfare reform attracted approval not only from Republicans and opponents of women's issues, but also from more surprising constituencies, including some in the mainstreamwomen's movement. As long as groups like the latter find, for example, challenging glass ceilings in the workplace for middle- and upper-class women more compelling than championing the cause of poor women in the home, Mink's courage will be commendable but probably not fruitful. Something to think about as the time limits on welfare support start kicking in.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801483936
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
05/15/1998
Series:
Cornell Paperbacks Series
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
216
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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