(Dis)Entitling the Poor: The Warren Court, Welfare Rights, and the American Political Tradition

Synopsis

A critique of the Warren Court's rulings on welfare in the context of twentieth-century politics.

In 1989 the Supreme Court ruled that the State of Wisconsin was not liable for the brutal beating of a young boy by his father, who had been investigated by the Department of Social Services. Chief Justice William Rehnquist's majority opinion rejected the claim of the boy's mother that her son had been deprived of his constitutional "right to life." Taking this case as her point of departure, Elizabeth Bussiere observes that the idea of a constitutional right to life was first rejected not by the conservative Rehnquist Court but by the liberal Warren Court twenty years earlier. She investigates why the Warren Court, despite its many rulings "entitling" the poor to constitutional protections, refused to identify welfare benefits (or subsistence) as a constitutional right.

Although focused on the Warren Court, the book explores Western political thought from the seventeenth through late twentieth centuries, draws on American social history from the Age of Jackson through the civil rights era of the 1960s, and utilizes current analytic methods, particularly the "new institutionalism." Finding cultural arguments regarding the absence of constitutional welfare rights inadequate, Bussiere illuminates two long-standing traditions -- natural law and maternalism -- that tended to support the poor's subsistence needs. The key to the failure of constitutional welfare rig

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • University Park, PA
Publication year:
  • 1997

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