THE MEAN SEASON: The Attack on the Welfare State by Feed & Others Block

THE MEAN SEASON: The Attack on the Welfare State

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A scholarly quartet of essays, seeking to rescue the welfare state from its perceived discreditation of the past decade. The authors, all from academe except for Barbara Ehrenreich (The Hearts of Men and Re-Making Love), bring to their task a passionate conviction that the half-century of state activism was neither a failure nor an economic or social miscalculation. The authors share a belief that the current ideological attacks on the welfare state are no more than the continual echoes of an age-old attempt of the business elite to limit the gains of the vulnerable majority. What seems surprising to them is the current collapse of liberal rebuttals to the attack: ""Liberals seem to have fallen into theoretical and moral disarray."" To counter this malaise, Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward insist that until the Left stops accepting the dominance of the market as a premise of research, policies to protect the poor will remain inadequate. Meanwhile, on another front, Block argues that the canard that high social-welfare spending has sapped the strength of the American economy is just that. He also pooh-poohs the extent of the national debt, arguing that the government--like any other business--must compare its total debt to its total accumulated assets. When this measure is applied to the government, the debt pales. In the final essay, Ehrenreich demonstrates that the danger of the New Right's success has been its appeal to the populists--traditionally a preserve of the progressives--and the concurrent lapse of the liberals in countering this appeal. An original analysis which, depending upon one's point of view, is either the welfare state's swan song or the vanguard of a new government activism.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1987
Publisher: Pantheon