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The Divided Welfare State: The Battle over Public and Private Social Benefits in the United States Paperback – September 9, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0521013284 ISBN-10: 0521013283
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Hacker (political science, Yale) tries to explain why "the United States devotes much less of its economy to government social spending than do other Western nations" by meticulously tracing the history of New Deal and Great Society legislation and programs and by showing that social programs in this country have attempted to balance the values of equity and freedom. Analyzing pensions, health insurance, and private and public benefits in separate sections, he focuses on how the deeply ingrained history of employer-sponsored pensions and health insurance has swung the pendulum toward utilizing private initiatives rather than enhanced federal programs to provide Americans with social benefits. In his final chapter, Hacker discusses the future of what he calls the American welfare regime, insisting that we need to understand the connectivity and tradeoffs between public support of social programs and the increasing willingness of the federal government to entertain privatization. Written in a scholarly style, with plenty of jargon, statistical tables, charts, and graphs, and references to primary and secondary sources cited in the extensive, annotated endnotes, this is a measured analysis of an important political issue affecting all Americans. For large public libraries, most university libraries, and some four-year college libraries.
Jack Forman, San Diego Mesa Coll. Lib., CA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"The strengths of Hacker's approach stem from the exhaustive historical research that he undertook, his mastery of detail, and his clarity of presentation. . . His scholarship is thorough enough to impress just about anyone." " The New Republic

"Hacker's study is an important resource for understanding why enactment of universal health insurance has been so difficult. His analysis is original and insightful. Politicians and political scientists alike will find this volume useful and thought provoking." Edward M. Kennedy, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts

"The subtitle nicely captures the flavour of this stimulating and absorbing analysis of the struggles over public and private social welfare in the United States. In a thoroughly researched study Hacker documents and explains the very different history and growth of pensions and health insurance in the United States. . . In many ways this is a splendid case-study of major parts of the social division of welfare within the United States, bringing out very clearly the complex interactions between public, tax and occupational welfare over the past century." Journal of Social Policy

"A brilliant book that will force Americans left, right and center to reconsider their ideas - and prejudices - about how our country provides social insurance and social services. An engaging and rigorous scholar, Hacker sheds light on a fact so obvious that scholars have often ignored it: in the United States, much of our welfare state is actually a system of private sector support. Hacker concludes that so much of what is touted as "The Third Way" is, in fact, the Old American Way. This is an indispensable work of history, political analysis and sophisticated common sense." E.J. Dionne Jr., Brookings Institution and Syndicated Columnist

"A work of extraordinary historical sweep and analytic power, The Divided Welfare State offers a provocative new angle of vision on the politics of social policy in the United States. Hacker's book is a must-read, not only for observers of modern American politics, but for all who want to know what lies behind today's disputes about health care reform and the "privatization" of Social Security." Theda Skocpol, Director of the Center for American Political Studies, Harvard University

"A path breaking work that is likely to reorient the way political scientists and historians frame the study of social policy. Hacker persuasively argues that the so-called "private" provision of social benefits is the product of crucial public decision-making and financial support, and demonstrates in impressive detail the longer term implications that stem from decisions to support private benefits with public dollars. The Divided Welfare State is one of those rare works of cutting edge scholarship that will be read beyond the academy by public officials, policy makers and informed citizens eager to understand the powerful structural factors that make pension and health care reform so difficult to achieve in the United States." Brian Balogh, University of Virginia

"The United States has long been held as an example of exceptionalism in the welfare state literature....In this brilliant (no less a word will do) book, Jacob Hacker gives a new twist to this story. In doing so, he has provided perhaps the most sophisticated analysis of the politics of social policy available, an analysis which has applications beyond the U.S." Is Rudolf Klein, Journal of Public Policy

"An extraordinary work. For the first time we see American social provision whole -- not just what it is not, but what it is. Thanks to Jacob Hacker's skillful blending of sophisticated theory and wide-ranging empirical analysis, we understand how this unique and often troubling mix of public and private action came about. And with this understanding we are far better placed to imagine, and work toward, a better future." Paul Pierson, Harvard University

"A stunning achievement that is a major contribution to the fields of political science, economics, history, and policy analysis. Hacker offers the definitive study of America's distinct system of private welfare benefits. Not only does he provide the most sophisticated account of how these benefits evolved and what impact they had on Americans polity, but he also forces us to rethink our most basic understanding of the logic behind America's public welfare state. A must-read for anyone interested in contemporary political history." Julian E. Zelizer, State University of New York at Albany

" This ranks as one of the very best histories of the American welfare state. Hacker places the spotlight squarely on retirement pensions and health care, the two largest components of U.S. social policy, and thus provides a welcome counterpart to the many existing studies of poverty. His careful attention to the many tools of social welfare, and the constant interplay between public and private actors, leads him to make original and insightful connections. Ambitious in scope, yet disciplined with conceptual rigor and careful comparisons, the book should be read by anyone interested in modern welfare states, American exceptionalism, and path dependence in policy making." Christopher Howard, College of William & Mary

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521013283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521013284
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
At a time of renewed debate over Medicare and Social Security, this is an important and insightful look at the origins and effects of America¡¯s distinctive public-private system of social welfare. Hacker¡¯s main point is that the American ¡°welfare regime¡± (he prefers this formulation to the common term, ¡°welfare state¡±) is a lot larger than most people think because, unlike most European nations, the United States relies heavily on private social benefits provided by employers, for example, private health insurance. The book carefully explains why private benefits play such a large role in the United States, why the role of private benefits differs between the two biggest areas of U.S. social policy -- health insurance and retirement pensions -- and what difference all this makes for the politics of U.S. social policy and the nature of present political debates. The book is original and well-researched. And even if you delve into the more theoretical parts of the book, it's a joy to read -- a rare combination of academic rigor, lucid prose, and clear thinking about current affairs.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Secretdreamer on November 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read and summarized this book for a Japan public TV documentary during the end of the 2008 election. This book should be dumbed down and distributed to everyone who has an opinion about such things as health care insurance, welfare, and Social Security. It's validating to read that conservatives throughout the history of the social welfare system have been opposed to such things as civil rights.

This is not an easy book to read and not something I would pick up on my own. But if you are interested in learning about the evolution of our social systems it's an important read. Also anyone who complains about why our elected officials don't get things done that they've promised this book gives you some ideas why. And depending on what side of the fence you're on it can also cause some righteous anger!

I knocked off one star because although Dr. Hacker wrote about escalating health care costs as a contributing factor involved in health insurance he didn't mention big Pharm and their major influence. I would have liked some discussion about the big players including the FDA in potential transition problems when and if universal health care ever occurs.
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