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Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race (Chicago Studies in American Politics) Hardcover – November 30, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

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“[P]owerful. Drawing on research from sociology, social welfare, political science, and public administration, Disciplining the Poor is a rare book that marries multiple disciplinary traditions with robust empirical analysis in pursuit of a timely and politically relevant goal. The book opens the doors for much new research on the market functions of the welfare state, the racial origins and implications of poverty governance and the complex interplay of welfare and penal systems as disciplinary structures.”
(Hana Brown, Wake Forest University Social Forces)

“Soss and colleagues Fording and Schram present an important study of how and why poverty governance has evolved over the past four decades. . . . As the nation grapples with the effects of the great recession, Disciplining the Poor is not only a timely study but also an engaging book that is well positioned to reshape a generation’s thinking on how poverty is confronted. This is a landmark book that both scholars and policy makers will appreciate. Highly recommended.”

(T. J. Vicino, Northeastern University Choice)

“A tour de force. . . . All three authors are among the country’s most prolific and insightful scholars of social policy, and together they have crafted a work of wide and ambitious scope, combining a superb and nuanced theoretical intensity with historical insight and skillfully amassed empirical evidence. One of the pleasures of engaging with this work of expansive vision and erudition is to encounter academic minds on their sharpest edge. . . . That Soss, Fording, and Schram were able to shape and sculpt all the massive amounts of data into coherent, elegant chapters is a marvel of engaged and passionate scholarly dedication, and the ethos of their piece is as impressive as the content. Their research—historical, theoretical, and empirical—is impeccable, and breathtakingly they bring all the realms of research together, in the process forging laser-like insight into poverty governance in the contemporary moments of complexity. Both graduate students and faculty in a wide range of disciplines who wish to gain cultural literacy in understanding poverty, race, and its management need to treat this text as priority reading. It will become a classic in the way Piven and Cloward’s Regulating the Poor did over forty years ago.”
(Allan Irving, University of Pennsylvania Social Service Review)

“Although American social policy is famously decentralized, Disciplining the Poor is one of those rare studies that provides both a persuasive overview of the broad social forces that shape the policy and a compelling analysis of how those forces are accommodated and incorporated by individuals and implementing agencies at the street level.”
(Michael Lipsky, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos)

“Soss, Fording, and Schram have produced an empirically comprehensive and theoretically erudite study not only of welfare in Florida, but across the United States. To my mind, this is the definitive study of the New American Poor Law that we have so far lacked, a study that properly highlights the bearing of welfare policy on labor markets and race relations.”
(Frances Fox Piven, Graduate Center, City University of New York)

Disciplining the Poor is a landmark book on the governance of poverty in the United States, the most important such work since Piven and Cloward’s Regulating the Poor, written a generation ago, and an exemplar of multi-method social science research.”
(Andrea Louise Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

About the Author

Joe Soss is the Cowles Professor for the Study of Public Service in the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Richard C. Fording is professor in and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Alabama. Sanford F. Schram teaches social theory and policy in the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College.


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Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Studies in American Politics
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226768767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226768762
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,080,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent insights from some of the best poverty scholars in the discipline. They offer a compelling critique of poverty management in the US and show how recent policy reforms are rooted in broader narratives of neoliberalism, paternalism, and racial bias. Their analysis of how structural heterogeneity exacerbates inequality along racial lines is particularly keen.
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By doug k on September 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book with much detailed analysis. The authors summarize their critique of poverty governance in their introduction (which they elaborate in chapters 11 and 12):

p15"...welfare programs can promote just or unjust terms of exchange between employers and workers...programs...are designed to service the "low road" of capitalism by offering up labor on whatever terms the market will bear...Under the banner of "valuing work" we have constructed an aggressive work-enforcement system that rides roughshod over all countervailing values and willfully ignores the conditions of labor markets and poor people's lives."

p16 "neoliberal paternalism reduces citizenship to a market role and "de-democratizes" the citizenry in far reaching ways....it deepens the political marginality of the poor, channeling them into positions of civic inferiority and isolation...the values of work and responsibility are being used to justify surveillance practices, authority relations, and modes of civic positioning that are deeply anti-democratic."

p16 "multiple features of the new policy regime function as mechanisms of racial inequality."

p16 "Neoliberal and paternalist reforms...are failures on their own terms...systems...routinely turn out to be unwieldy and inefficient. Contracting arrangements...actually encourage scandals and corruption as they turn services for the poor into a corporate profit-making arena...The inspiring image of the welfare poor being moved into jobs that carry them out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency has borne little resemblance to what welfare program leavers actually experience.
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This is one of the game changer books. Incredibly well researched, quite academic and requires a careful read, but ends up being a bit repetitious (usually in ways that are helpful, though). Disciplining the Poor is another look at how systems of inequality and racism have defined the experience for African Americans in this country. When the federal government devolved responsibility for supports to the poor (AFCD) to the states (TANF) in 1996 under Clinton and the Republican Congress, the singular conclusion that we can draw is that restrictions tightened mostly in states that had high African American populations. That race was a predominating factor in making policy around welfare reform is inescapable and inexcusable.
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The book is just as described (new), and it came quickly. Thanks!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this for class, and am very glad I did so. It's very informative and interesting. If you care about welfare and both the politics behind it and real facts, get this book.
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