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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the main themes in social welfare policy. These themes include the assumption that poor people are responsible for their own poverty; a belief in the marketplace as the best means of addressing human needs; and a consequent wariness of federal social welfare interventions. Analyzing social welfare policy’s multiple and conflicting roles, it then traces these themes as they have manifested themselves throughout U.S. history. The chapter concludes by contending that while these historical factors may have all contributed to less comprehensive social welfare policies, their inadequacies effectively reopen the issue of what social welfare should become in the twenty-first century, when neoliberalism and rising income inequality have heightened the fears of so many Americans about their declining standard of living.

Keywords: ocial welfare policy, market failure, individualism, social Darwinism, Civil War, pensions, mothers’ pensions, corporatism, Neoliberalism

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