Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present

By Mimi Abramovitz | Go to book overview

11
Restoring the Family Ethic: The Assault on Women and the Welfare State in the 1980s

The U.S. welfare system established by the 1935 Social Security Act is under open attack today. The major rationales for the assault suggest that the welfare state's ongoing capacity to regulate work and family life in ways compatible with the current requirements of patriarchy and capitalism is faltering and needs to be restored. Criticisms of government spending, and the idea that entitlement and social programs are a threat to both the work and family ethics all convey this message. Along with the rising deficit, these are the arguments used to explain the major cutbacks and other changes in domestic programs. The retrenchment of Aid to Families With Dependent Children, Old Age Pensions, and Unemployment Insurance can be viewed not only as an attempt to shrink government spending, but also as an effort to restore patriarchal family arrangements and to limit government subsidization of family units to those viewed as properly equipped to carry out its reproductive tasks. The cuts also exert a downward pressure on wages and increase the supply of labor to low wage employers hurting from a shortage of workers.

Social welfare policies with these goals correspond to deep concerns about the reproduction and maintenance of the labor force and

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