Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History

By Alice O'connor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Origins: Poverty and Social Science in
The Era of Progressive Reform

AT THE END of the nineteenth century social investigators in several of the world’s most advanced industrial societies set out to bring new scientific understanding to the problem of poverty. In this they were very much caught up in the international wave of organizing, policy innovation, state building, and, above all, social learning that characterized the decades between 1880 and the beginning of World War I as an era of progressive reform.1 They were also moved by the central paradox Henry George referred to in the title of his wildly popular Progress and Poverty (1879) and in subsequent lecture tours: that great wealth and unprecedented productive capacity brought increasing poverty. So, too, were they dedicated to challenging the precepts of “laissez-faire,” a doctrine they associated with unbridled free market capitalism, the narrow pursuit of individual self-interest, and the rise of a social scientific justification for inequality and concentrated wealth.2 Drawing on a combination of classical economics and Social Darwinism, Yale University sociologist William Graham Sumner had argued that inequality was a social expression of the natural laws of economic competition—the survival and dominance of the fittest— and that any attempt to intervene in the free market system would simply set progress back on its heels.3 Poverty was not only inevitable but, in Sumner’s words, “the best policy”: deprived by their own or by nature’s doing, the poor had no special claim on society at large.

The new knowledge, in contrast, would distinguish itself from other types of “scientific” investigation in several ways, which together make the Progressive Era a foundational period for twentieth-century poverty research. In the first instance it would be rigorously empirical—for the most part, quantitative—distinguishing it from the more abstract discourse of classical economics that inscribed poverty, along with the operation of markets, with the aura of natural law. The new poverty knowledge would take its cue instead from the insurgent, German-influenced “new economics” expounded by Richard T. Ely, Henry Carter Adams, and other founders of the American Economic Association in 1885, which embraced a more historical and institutional, but above all, social and ethical understanding of how the capitalist economy had evolved.4 Second, the new poverty knowledge would be rigorously objective, as distinct from the morally judgmental inquiries of charity work, and would devote itself to devising more and ever-better scientific methods for gathering, categorizing,

-25-

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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Help
Full screen
/ 375

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.