The politics of poverty: Race, class, motherhood, and the National Welfare Rights Organization, 1965--1975
Опубликовано на портале: 19-05-20042001
University of Minnesota
|Тематические разделы:||Социология, Экономическая социология, Социальная стратификация|
This dissertation uses the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) as a case study of the politics of poverty. It argues that, in a society that denies the very existence of class, poor Americans face almost insurmountable challenges when they try to mobilize around their own poverty.
This dissertation uses the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) as a case study of the politics of poverty. It argues that, in a society that denies the very existence of class, poor Americans face almost insurmountable challenges when they try to mobilize around their own poverty. For a short period during the 1960s and 1970s the welfare rights movement organized poor people nationwide and, through the NWRO, articulated a vision of economic justice centered around the rights of poor Americans. As a movement whose grass-roots members were primarily poor African American women who lived in cities and received public aid, the welfare rights movement highlights the intersections of race, class, gender, motherhood, and the welfare state. With a national identity grounded in an unflagging faith in upward mobility and a reverence for self-sufficiency, the United States has constantly struggled to account for the persistence of poverty in the land of opportunity. Moreover, deep divisions across lines of race and region have often frustrated poor citizens' ability to identify with each other and unite around shared goals. The NWRO confronted these challenges as the War on Poverty gave way to what some historians have labeled the War on Poor People. During a decade when social scientists, policymakers, and the media constantly scrutinized poor people, welfare rights activists refuted dominant understandings of poverty. Despite a growing anti-welfare backlash, they argued passionately for more generous benefits and a more just welfare system. Welfare rights activism marks an important disruption in the historical pattern of middle-class women advocating on behalf of poor single mothers. By speaking for themselves, welfare rights activists subverted the traditional relationship between welfare clients and providers. Without a legitimate tradition of mobilizing poor people, activists found various ways to graft their arguments onto those of more accepted movements. Throughout its decade of activity, the welfare rights movement adopted the rhetoric and methods of civil rights, feminism, and maternalism. Although welfare rights activists could not sustain their alliances with these groups, their story enlightens us by underscoring the problematic role of poverty in American politics.