New Poverty: Families in Postmodern Society

By David Cheal | Go to book overview
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Families in Postmodernity

Throwing money at social problems is no longer popular. In particular, giving money to the poor is now often seen as an act of dubious value, for which political consent is only grudgingly given. Of course, the income safety nets in the United States and Canada have always had some large holes in them. Even so, there is something new about our reluctance to support poor people today. Opinions about the deserving poor and the undeserving poor have hardened, and the commitment to maintaining a minimum standard of living for all families has softened.

Current debates about poverty are of interest not only to policy makers and the poor themselves but also to anyone who wishes to understand the temper of our times and how that temper has frayed. Slogans such as "the rise of the radical right," and "hard times breed hard politics," explain part of what is happening. But there is a larger set of factors at work. The present moment is a time of great change and great uncertainty. Social institutions, governments, and nations are in a state of flux. Pressures to restructure economic practices are felt in homes as well as in businesses, and major changes have taken place in family life over the past century. Together with the likelihood of further changes, these events are prompting a broad rethinking of established points of view about families and their place in society.

In this book, we will examine some of the economic and social characteristics of poor families in the United States and Canada today. The

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