- Series: Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives (Book 89)
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (August 27, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691124736
- ISBN-13: 978-0691124735
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,524,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When Movements Matter: The Townsend Plan and the Rise of Social Security (Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives) Hardcover – August 27, 2006
Compelling. . . . Grounded in impressive archival research that easily makes it the best book on the Townsend Plan ever published. . . . The book is well-written and the balance between its theoretical and historical components is excellent.---Daniel Béland, Contexts
Amenta's sharp theoretical analysis of the Townsend mobilization and his rigorous excavation of the historical evidence sets a high standard for future research.---Joseph E. Luders, Perspectives on Politics
When Movements Matter is clearly written and is the most detailed history of the Townsend Plan published.---Raymond Richards, Journal of American History
First-class scholarship. . . . When Movements Matter is beautifully written, well argued, and systematically researched. This is state of the art theory and research. . . . If you have any interest in why and how social movements succeed or fail, you must read Amenta.---Nella Van Dyke, Contemporary Sociology
The best history we have of both the Townsend Plan and the pension movement from the Great Depression to 1950. More generally, it is one of the finest accounts to date of any movement of 'challengers' over a long era of economic and political turbulence.---W. Elliot Brownlee, Business History Review
This is the best crafted book I have seen in awhile. It is a delightfully written (and at times even humorous) account of the rise and fall of the Townsend Movement.... I recommend this book strongly to all people interested in understanding the dynamics of social movements and not only those interested in movement consequences.---Sarah A. Soule, Mobilization
"This is historical sociology at its best, written by one of the field's best practitioners."―Edward Berkowitz, George Washington University
From the Inside Flap
"This is historical sociology at its best, written by one of the field's best practitioners."--Edward Berkowitz, George Washington University
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Townsend's concept was well illustrated on the chart in the book, "The Span of Life from Birth to Death".
The author points out several weaknesses of the Townsend Plan. The $200 per month was exorbitantly high (about $40,000 per year in 2012) dollars. Maybe Townsend set the amount so high because it got older people to join his movement, and they could always bargain back to something less.
Another weakness was how to pay for the plan. One of his proposals was a 2% transaction tax, but back then and even today, nobody has any idea of how many total transactions there are.
Townsend was also not a politician, so he had no idea how to move Congress or the President politically. Townsend was also not the best person to pick to leak a major social movement. He lacked many skills and eventually dumped his partner, who was the organizing brains behind the movement.
The author speculates the Townsend Movement is not better remembered today because of several reasons. Not many records exist today of the movement, compared to the massive archives about Social Security. There were also no great writers about the movement in its heyday. The Great Depression is also not a period people want to remember. Nobody is alive today that was a key player in the movement. Townsend was also not a colorful character, and he was not assassinated or killed.
When Townsend dreamed up his $200 per month pension scheme, he was 67 years old. He had just got laid off from his city government job, and his wife had to go back to work as a nurse. By creating this movement, Townsend was able to create a job for himself the rest of his life that paid $400 per month.
The author did a valuable service by writing this book and capturing as much information as possible about this movement.
The author concludes that Townsend's efforts did influence the passage of Social Security to provide a minimum income to senior citizens.