‘A Second Chance, not a Way of Life’: Welfare as Workfare in the USA

Desmond King

in In The Name of Liberalism

Published in print September 1999 | ISBN: 9780198296294
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599668 | DOI:
 ‘A Second Chance, not a Way of Life’: Welfare as Workfare in the USA

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King discusses the history and politics of workfare in the US, the practice of requiring work activity in exchange for welfare benefits. He analyses the late nineteenth‐century Poor Law deterrent traditions as well as the post‐1960s shifts to modern contractualist workfare, which culminated in the 1996 Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Within this discussion, King examines the influence of an English institutional inheritance as well as American cultural attitudes towards welfare as expressed in public opinion surveys strongly marked by racial cleavages and perceptions of dependency. King argues that modern American workfare programmes are not driven solely by pragmatic needs or electoral pressures, but rather by moralistic concerns about failing to work along with the prevailing view that welfare harmfully fosters dependency amongst its recipients.

Keywords: contractualism; cultural attitudes; dependency; Personal Opportunity Work Reconciliation Act; public opinion; racial cleavages; USA; welfare; workfare

Chapter.  13153 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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