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The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare

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For the first time in over twenty-five years. the issue of poverty -- and our failure to deal with it -- is back at the top of the policy agenda and on the front page of the news. In this magisterial overview social historian Michael B. Katz, examines the ideas and assumptions that have shaped public policy from the sixties War on Poverty to the current war on welfare. Clo For the first time in over twenty-five years. the issue of poverty -- and our failure to deal with it -- is back at the top of the policy agenda and on the front page of the news. In this magisterial overview social historian Michael B. Katz, examines the ideas and assumptions that have shaped public policy from the sixties War on Poverty to the current war on welfare. Closely argued and lucidly written. The Undeserving Poor transcends the barriers that have channeled the American discussion of poverty and wealth into a narrow, self-defeating course, and points the way to a new, constructive approach to our major social problem.


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For the first time in over twenty-five years. the issue of poverty -- and our failure to deal with it -- is back at the top of the policy agenda and on the front page of the news. In this magisterial overview social historian Michael B. Katz, examines the ideas and assumptions that have shaped public policy from the sixties War on Poverty to the current war on welfare. Clo For the first time in over twenty-five years. the issue of poverty -- and our failure to deal with it -- is back at the top of the policy agenda and on the front page of the news. In this magisterial overview social historian Michael B. Katz, examines the ideas and assumptions that have shaped public policy from the sixties War on Poverty to the current war on welfare. Closely argued and lucidly written. The Undeserving Poor transcends the barriers that have channeled the American discussion of poverty and wealth into a narrow, self-defeating course, and points the way to a new, constructive approach to our major social problem.

30 review for The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    A terrific history of the way poverty has been understood, and misunderstood, and addressed/ignored in the U.S. (and occasionally overseas) since the beginning of the twentieth century, with an episode on the War on Poverty and the subsequent, ongoing backlash. The story is a complex, multifaceted one, and this is not an easy book to read (though manageable for an inexpert reader--hello). To oversimplify, the core of the book is that poverty has been seen predominantly as a problem and a patholo A terrific history of the way poverty has been understood, and misunderstood, and addressed/ignored in the U.S. (and occasionally overseas) since the beginning of the twentieth century, with an episode on the War on Poverty and the subsequent, ongoing backlash. The story is a complex, multifaceted one, and this is not an easy book to read (though manageable for an inexpert reader--hello). To oversimplify, the core of the book is that poverty has been seen predominantly as a problem and a pathology of individuals, as the moral category "undeserving poor" (which keeps cropping up in different forms--even in Marx's lumpenproletariat) suggests. However, poverty is of course in large part a structural problem, one of forces and institutions beyond individual control. The book offers a survey of theories that explore and explain poverty, and a history of responses by governments, other private or public institutions, and poor people themselves. Particularly interesting to me were the successes (despite Reagan's glib claim it was lost--Reagan ushered in a disastrous era for the poor) of the War on Poverty, despite its very limited funding, because it granted some power to poor people themselves, who struggled hard to run their own institutions--there are some inspiring stories especially of African American women in this period. And despite the grim history of the success of right wing stories of the undeserving poor, grounded in prejudice not fact, Katz remains determinedly and impressively optimistic in his conclusion, citing incidents especially in South America of incidents where the poor have succeeded in transforming cities, with the occasional help of sympathetic governments, local or national.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ander P

    Very useful look and US social policy since the early 20th century. Gives a primer on the evolution of liberal and conservative policy, while lightly touching on grassroots organizing and socialist ideology. 5 stars for the chapter that debunks the Bell Curve ;)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Frederic

    Dated Sociology but interesting enough to suggest a look at current work by the author...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    Michael B. Katz has written other books on welfare, poverty and the underclass in the United States. Michael B. Katz has written other books on welfare, poverty and the underclass in the United States.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    An exploration into America's political and philosophical engagements with poverty, focused primarily on poverty social policy since the 1960s. The author explains how from the beginning there have been delineations between the "deserving" poor, like widows, the disabled or ill, or those who have undergone unfortunate circumstances in some other way, and the "undeserving" poor - those presumed to be poor because of some other reason, generally assumed to be their own indolence. He explores the soc An exploration into America's political and philosophical engagements with poverty, focused primarily on poverty social policy since the 1960s. The author explains how from the beginning there have been delineations between the "deserving" poor, like widows, the disabled or ill, or those who have undergone unfortunate circumstances in some other way, and the "undeserving" poor - those presumed to be poor because of some other reason, generally assumed to be their own indolence. He explores the sociology of poverty, but primarily the public policy end of it - going in great detail about the policy decisions related to the War on Poverty and the conservative backlash to it, the emergence of the concept of the "underclass" and the end of that idea, and most recently, the appeal to a more market ideology in relation to handling poverty. Major philosophers and works are explored as well. The author rightly speaks of the challenge behind the challenge: to understand what poverty is, where it comes from, and then to seek the best way forward in addressing it. Conservatives tend to focus on individual persons, as if poverty is generally the result of individual failure; liberals make much of places, as if poverty is a result of a toxic environment. He also identifies resources (poverty as lack of money and other assets), political economy (poverty as the unfortunate result of those who "lose" at capitalism), power (poverty as result of political powerlessness), and markets (poverty as lack of a viable market, or not using the market and human potential effectively). And there is also the pessmism - poverty as an ever-present problem, and thus one without solution. More about the history of public policy than might be imagined, but still a good introduction to the state of poverty research and public policy, why it has gone the way it has, the stigmas and prejudices inherent throughout, and the reasons why those with power in America would rather not actually deal with the real issues behind poverty.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    What kind of problem is poverty? Katz showcases American thinkers/doers six definitions of the problem: persons, place, markets, political economy, power, and resources. This isn't the quickest read, but it is essential for folks concerned with economic hardship in the United States. Foundational. What kind of problem is poverty? Katz showcases American thinkers/doers six definitions of the problem: persons, place, markets, political economy, power, and resources. This isn't the quickest read, but it is essential for folks concerned with economic hardship in the United States. Foundational.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    This was a great review and analysis of the literature regarding the American understanding of poverty. I enjoyed every part of it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily Hughes

    This is such an important book if you want to get a good understanding of poverty in the U.S., but it is quite dense. I read this for a social policy class and found it fascinating, but it's definitely one I will need to return to in the future because I did not get it all during that first go. Seeing as how this book was published in 1989, I'd be very interested to read an updated version. This is such an important book if you want to get a good understanding of poverty in the U.S., but it is quite dense. I read this for a social policy class and found it fascinating, but it's definitely one I will need to return to in the future because I did not get it all during that first go. Seeing as how this book was published in 1989, I'd be very interested to read an updated version.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vince Darcangelo

    http://ensuingchapters.com/2014/01/04... It’s been a quarter-century since the first edition of this book was published. Some things have changed drastically: The first edition came out at the height of the Reagan-Bush era, whereas the new edition comes on the heels of major Democratic victories in 2012. But some things haven’t changed: The cultural obsession of equating financial poverty with moral bankruptcy. Katz does a wonderful job of exploring the evolution of blame-the-poor politics and th http://ensuingchapters.com/2014/01/04... It’s been a quarter-century since the first edition of this book was published. Some things have changed drastically: The first edition came out at the height of the Reagan-Bush era, whereas the new edition comes on the heels of major Democratic victories in 2012. But some things haven’t changed: The cultural obsession of equating financial poverty with moral bankruptcy. Katz does a wonderful job of exploring the evolution of blame-the-poor politics and the invention (and ongoing reinvention) of the underclass. It’s a slippery and interesting social history, and it brings to mind Foucault’s histories of mental illness and prisons. One of the interesting takeaways for me is the human need to compartmentalize. There is a line drawn between the deserving and the undeserving poor. Women and children tend to occupy the first category, while men almost universally fall into the latter. Politically and culturally speaking, the line drawn between the two groups is solid and severe, with those on one side garnerng support and sympathy and the others disdain and even punishment. The trouble is that the line, in reality rather than construct, is blurry. America’s schizophrenic attitude toward poverty shouldn’t be surprising. It’s a country that went from agriculture to industry to technology, where the Roaring ’20s gave way to the Great Depression, which segued into an unprecedented era of prosperity. Where LBJ waged a failed War on Poverty, and his successors waged a failed War on Drugs, which has ultimately amounted to a war on the impoverished. This is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in economics, politics or social history. It may not resolve any legislative debates, but it will lend the reader more thoughtful consideration of the topic.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Packed with information on a topic I'm really interested in, but this was painful to read. The writing is so dry. Please save yourself the trouble and pick another book to read if you want to learn more about the war on poverty and welfare reform. I would only recommend this as a source for a research paper or something like that. Packed with information on a topic I'm really interested in, but this was painful to read. The writing is so dry. Please save yourself the trouble and pick another book to read if you want to learn more about the war on poverty and welfare reform. I would only recommend this as a source for a research paper or something like that.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    sociology

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    This is a fantastic history of poverty in the U.S. over the last century. Katz knows the ins and outs of the problem of poverty, and he is very informative.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    3.4 Martinie glasses

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shnnnbly

  15. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Faust

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vesna Denić

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dell

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Barton

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Giobbi

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Erin Crane

  27. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  28. 4 out of 5

    Karisa Morikawa

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bastian

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

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