Welfare Justice


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Restoring Social Equity

Neil Gilbert

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Over the past several decades the welfare state has become increasingly unfair, says Neil Gilbert in this fresh and provocative book. He analyzes some critical developments: traditional welfare arrangements have failed to accommodate the changing character of family life and gender equality; groups identifying themselves as victims (feminists, gays, disabled people, older people, and others) have increasingly demanded new social rights while ignoring the need to enlarge civic responsibilities; advocates have exaggerated the prevalence of such social ills as rape and child abuse, thus muddying policy deliberations; and a hidden welfare state has evolved that delivers huge subsidies to the middle and upper classes—for health, housing, daycare, and pensions—in the midst of growing resentment against welfare spending for the poor.

Gilbert argues that policymakers need to develop programs that balance the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and they need to take a hard look at exactly who benefits from government resources. He calls for a new form of social protection to supersede the welfare state: the "enabling state," where citizens are treated not as passive recipients of public benefits and care but as individuals capable of looking after themselves with occasional assistance from the government. The central challenge of the enabling state will be to create a system of social protection that encourages private responsibility while maintaining an equitable framework of humane public care for those unable to assist themselves.

Neil Gilbert is Milton and Gertrude Chernin Professor of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of many previous books, including Capitalism and the Welfare State, published by Yale University Press and hailed as a "powerful call for a social philosophy of the welfare state" by Robert B. Reich in the New York Times Book Review.

"A major contribution to social policy studies. Gilbert presents a compelling case for developing social policy designed to ensure that government programs deal fairly and equally with all."—Duncan Lindsey, editor of Children and Youth Services Review

"Welfare Justice is not the sort of book that Neil Gilbert decided to one day write. It evolves over two decades of struggle—intellectual and practical—to realign welfare ideology so that it becomes something more than a handmaiden to the welfare state. Indeed, in making a search for a balance between rights and responsibilities, personal responsibility with public worth, Gilbert has performed a unique and inestimable service—and done so with facts and figures no less than ideas and theories."—Irving Louis Horowitz, Hannah Arendt Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Rutgers University

"A powerful, encompassing analysis and policy agenda. You may love it or hate it, but you will not want to miss it."—Amitai Etzioni, author of The Spirit of Community

"A timely and thoughtfully argued book."—Brigitte Berger, Wall Street Journal

"It is extremely useful to have Neil Gilbert's criticisms and proposals about many aspects of the welfare system readily available in a single volume."—Rita J. Simon, Partisan Review

"In the midst of the current, often bitter, mudslinging debate about welfare programs and policies, it is wonderfully useful to have Neil Gilbert’s recent work…as a reference. Gilbert takes us behind the scenes of the debate and offers us history, data, and careful analysis, wise counsel about policies that have outlived their usefulness and have been diverted from their original purposes, and new ideas and proposals."—Rita J. Simon, Partisan Review

"Reading what Neil Gilbert has written about the subject of inequalities is a pleasure. . . . The book is highly recommended as a brief and intelligent excursion into the welfare swamp."—Edgar F. Borgatta, Political Processes

"Gilbert's latest book on the welfare state is most timely given the current debate on welfare reform, a debate that at times has created confusion and touched on the irrational. In a style we have come to expect, Gilbert offers a clear and understandable critique of the debate and is successful in clarifying a number of central issues.—Robert Moroney, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

"Gilbert presents a valuable review of the welfare state as it has evolved in the United States. . . . His book offers insights sadly lacking in the current debate over welfare policy."—Donald R. Stabile, Business Library Review

"Reading what Neil Gilbert has written about the subject of inequalities is a pleasure from a number of points of view, most centrally because of his ability to describe succinctly the relationship of changing historical circumstances to welfare policies and programs….The book is highly recommended as a brief and intelligent excursion into the welfare swamp."—Edgar F. Borgatta, Contemporary Sociology

ISBN: 9780300070606
Publication Date: February 27, 1997
216 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
A Mother's Work

How Feminism, the Market, and Policy Shape Family Life

Neil Gilbert

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