The Dynamics of American Politics: Approaches and Interpretations

By Lawrence C. Dodd; Calvin Jillson | Go to book overview
Save to active project

panied the Depression. Once the crisis passed and the need for cheap labor increased, assistance programs became more restrictive, according to Piven and Cloward, who go on to characterize relief-giving as a countercyclical process that next erupted during the War on Poverty.

However, the cycle of expansion and contraction can be interrupted, as Piven and Cloward explain in The New Class War. If these authors are right, the development of public assistance is cumulative. Entitlements become permanent by virtue of the political support they enjoy, and attempts to bring about a contraction will fail. If -- and it is a big if -- the same process applies at the state level, then the history of public assistance in states with individualist political subcultures ought to follow a similar path. However slowly and fitfully, ADC and other forms of social welfare policy should continue expanding over time, breaking the cyclical pattern of relief -- unless fears of becoming "welfare magnets" become too strong, and prevent further liberalization.

Such fears may be set aside in counterfactual analyses by theorists who wonder what the course of social welfare policy in the United States might have been if individualist, and not traditionalist, states set the pace of development. A pattern of cumulative development or expansion, such as that implied in Piven and Cloward's revised thesis, suggests that public assistance would be more generous than it is, albeit less generous that it might have been under a regime of moralist values. That is, it seems very likely that the American welfare state would be less exceptional, if only it were more thoroughly liberal in character.


I thank Larry Dodd and Cal Jillson for their support and encouragement, and for their editorial suggestions.

Old-age pensions were introduced in Germany in 1889, in Britain in 1908, in Canada in 1927, and in France in 1930. Unemployment insurance was introduced in Britain in 1911, in France in 1914, in Germany in 1927, and in Canada in 1935 (though the law was declared unconstitutional and was replaced by another in 1940). Compare King ( 1973a:300, table 3).
Hartz is only the best-known exponent of liberalism's hegemony in America. For a more recent statement of the position, see Huntington ( 1981), whose description of a prevalent "American Creed" parallels Hartz's characterization of "Lockean liberalism." A more subtle description of the American culture of liberal individualism is given by Merelman ( 1991), who mentions countervailing tendencies, but goes on to assert their weakness, compared to similar tendencies in other liberal cultures, for example, in Canada and, especially, in Great Britain.
The correlation is imperfect, as may be seen in Thompson, Ellis, and Wildavsky ( 1990), but the differences between Wildavsky and Elazar need not detain us here. Ellis ( 1991a) provides an incisive evaluation of Elazar's theory of political culture and criticism of his choice of descriptive labels.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Dynamics of American Politics: Approaches and Interpretations
Table of contents


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 451

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?