The Great Depression and the Social Security Act
The landmark Social Security Act became the centerpiece of the modern welfare state. Its original programs--social insurance (Old Age Assistance, Aid to the Blind, Aid to Dependent Children, Old Age Insurance, Unemployment Compensation, and Public Assistance)--offered cash assistance to retired and unemployed workers and to selected groups among the poor. It also provided for maternal and child health care. Enacted in 1935, when capital accumulation, patriarchal authority, and reproduction of the labor force, as well as the overall social peace, were threatened by the collapse of the economy, the rise of working-class militancy, and the destabilization of the family system, the Social Security Act institutionalized the role of the state in maintaining families, the labor force, and the general welfare of society.
By assuming responsibility for providing a minimum level of income below which no one was expected to live, the state began to address problems in the political economy that had been simmering since