Bringing the Welfare State Back In: The Promise (and Perils) of the New Social Welfare History


Jacob S. Hacker

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Hacker, Jacob S. (2005) “Bringing the Welfare State Back In: The Promise (and Perils) of the New Social Welfare History”. Journal of Policy History 17(1): 125-154.
The welfare state—the complex of policies that, in one form or another, all rich democracies have adopted to ameliorate destitution and provide valued social goods and services—is an increasingly central subject in the study of American history and politics. The past decade has unleashed a veritable tidal wave of books on the topic, including, from historians, Alice Kessler-Harris’s In Pursuit of Equity and Michael Katz’s The Price of Citizenship, and, from political scientists, Robert Lieberman’s Shifting the Color Line and Peter Swenson’s Capitalists Against Markets. Journals ranging from the American Historical Review to Political Science Quarterly (and, with less regularity, even the American Political Science Review) now routinely feature analyses of U.S. social policy. And going back just a few years more, the early 1990s saw the publication of several influential works on the subject, notably Paul Pierson’s Dismantling the Welfare State? and Theda Skocpol’s Protecting Soldiers and Mothers, each of which won major book prizes in political science. If any moment deserves to be seen as a heady time for writing on the American welfare state, this is it.
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