I started reading this book to prepare for the 2012 election, since the welfare state was one of the main issues in contention that year, and I figureI started reading this book to prepare for the 2012 election, since the welfare state was one of the main issues in contention that year, and I figured I might as well bone up a bit on its origins and evolution.
(I did not finish the book by the time the election happened. It's dry, densely written and makes for slow going, even if the subject matter is vitally important.)
Also, I very much recommend reading the author's prefaces. In the Sixth Edition (the edition I read), there are six of them, in reverse chronological order, written between 1973 (the First Edition) and 1998 (the sixth), and each one lists the things the author has added to the book to cover the things that had changed in social welfare policy since the last edition. What I found most interesting -- and also very darkly amusing -- were his personal hopes and predictions that he concludes every preface with, and that every succeeding preface opens by addressing just how wrong he was in the previous preface, and how things have actually turned out so much worse than he could have imagined.
Most hilariously (or most depressingly, depending on your mood) the most recent edition was published in 1998, during the second term of Bill Clinton. One can only imagine what the author of this book would write if he were to publish a Seventh Edition!
After the prefaces, there is a Background section that briefly discusses how the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Jews, the early Christians, the medieval Europeans and finally the England of Queen Elizabeth I treated their poor and homeless citizens. It is the Poor Laws of this latter time and place that is given the most attention, since they are the most direct predecessor to the laws of the earliest English colonies in America.
The themes that he establishes in his description of the Elizabethan Poor Laws -- categories of deserving and undeserving poor, the question of whose duty it is to find work for idle vagrants, helpful vs. punitive approaches to homelessness, unemployment and beggary -- will show up again and again throughout the rest of the book.
The rest of the book covers all of American history up to (and including part of) the Clinton presidency, with each chapter dealing with a discrete unit of time. He does not break them up by periodicity, but by notable changes in policy, or sometimes disruptive events like the American Revolution or the Civil War.
The first chapter deals with the colonial period (about 1620-1700); the second with the era of the American Revolution (that's what its title says, but it would be more accurate to call it the entire 18th century); the third deals with the first half of the 19th century, concentrating on "the trend toward indoor relief" ("indoor relief" meaning poorhouses, workhouses, "poor farms" and similar institutional settings); and the fourth with the Civil War and the period immediately following it. After that, the chapter organization shifts to being more thematic than chronological, though the overall direction of successive chapters is still forward in time. The fifth chapter talks about child welfare, and the approach that emerged in the 19th century to treat poor and indigent children differently, and create different institutions to serve (or, less charitably, warehouse) them, than poor and indigent adults. This was also around the time that laws against child labor were being enacted, and schooling was becoming mandatory for all children. The next three chapters are about the Public Health movement, the Settlement House movement (settlement houses being ), and the mental-health movement. Then there are chapters on the "renaissance of public welfare" at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, and the "quest for professionalization," or the transition between social-welfare type work being mostly private, individual or religious charity work and the development of a body of professionals analogous to doctors, nurses, teachers, pharmacists etc. Following that chapter, the organization of chapters reverts to a more straightforward chronological order, with chapters on social work and welfare in the 1920s; the Depression and New Deal eras; the World War II and Great Society eras; the transitional period of the late 1960s and early 1970s, that bridges the gap between the Great Society and the Reaganesque approach to social-welfare policy that continues to dominate today. The last two chapters deal with Reagan's policies, and their continuation by Presidents Bush and Clinton....more
This book is an exhaustive look at a fairly large body of scientific literature --- Rebecca Jordan-Young is trying to evaluate the evidence for the thThis book is an exhaustive look at a fairly large body of scientific literature --- Rebecca Jordan-Young is trying to evaluate the evidence for the thesis that testosterone and estrogen shape distinctly male and female, and also gay and straight, brains sometime during gestation.
To do this, she looks at all the studies ever published following either of these designs: 1) using a sample of people about whom something is known of their prenatal hormone exposure (like people with disorders like congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or people whose mothers allowed researchers to test their blood or amniotic hormone levels while pregnant) and trying to gather data about their abilities, personality traits, sexuality and compliance with gender norms, or 2) getting a bunch of "gender-atypical" people, like gay, lesbian or transgender people, or straight, cisgender people who defy gender norms in some other way, like women who are engineers, mathematicians or computer programmers, and trying to gather data about their early hormone exposure.
There's a lot of that literature to go through, and she does it meticulously, though her focus is less on answering the question "Are there male or female brains?" (she doesn't think we can answer that yet) and more on determining exactly what all these studies can tell us, and how well they fit together.
Most of the book is spent delving into technical details of how each study was done, and it seems to be written for an academic rather than a lay audience. I found this book valuable, and will definitely refer back to it a lot, but I didn't enjoy reading it the way I enjoyed reading Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender, which addresses similar issues for a more general audience, and is written in a much more engaging style....more
In the introduction to this collection of essays, Susan Bordo names Foucault as the primary influence on her thought, and on the ideas she explores heIn the introduction to this collection of essays, Susan Bordo names Foucault as the primary influence on her thought, and on the ideas she explores here. As soon as I read that, I said "Oh, no. That's a bad sign," fearing that the book would be too postmodern for me. Happily, it's not. The writing is clear, engaging and fairly accessible (it can still be slow going, especially in the final three essays which deal specifically with postmodernism), and she does actually make recognizable, clearly-stated arguments in every one of her essays, as opposed to much of postmodernist writing, which spends most of its time studiously avoiding argument. (Harrumph!)
Anyway, most of the book has little to do with postmodernism at all; it's a discussion of the body in Western culture, particularly at the time the book was written (early 1990s), though it also makes reference to earlier historical periods. Much time is spent discussing eating disorders as logical outgrowths of contemporary society's conflicting attitudes toward appetites --- we still honor the Protestant work ethic of delayed gratification and self-denial, but our economy has shifted to one dependent on lots of consumer spending. Until recently, we solved that problem by making men the producers and (middle- and upper-class) women the consumers (in the housewife role), but with the second wave of feminism that dichotomy collapsed. Bordo also draws a connection between historical periods of greater social and political freedom for women and more-restrictive beauty standards.
What I liked most about her cultural explanations for eating disorders and the thin ideal is her refusal to limit herself to one "reading" of thinness. She prioritizes the different readings, of course --- she would have to, in order to avoid incoherence --- but she recognizes that beauty ideals say a lot of different things about the culture from which they come. To women who embrace the thin ideal, it's not just about looking like the models in the ads; it's also about repudiating maternity as the only destiny a woman can have, and claiming historically "masculine" virtues (those aforementioned traits of self-denial and striving) as one's own. She emphasizes, however, that these are just another aspect of the still-rigid, and still-unequal gender binary: extreme thinness is about repudiating what makes the body characteristically feminine, just as much female success is (still) achieved at the cost of uncritically accepting, and forcing oneself into, the masculine mold....more
A dense, informative, extensively footnoted history of the relationship between post-WWII suburbanization and the American environmental movement. BegA dense, informative, extensively footnoted history of the relationship between post-WWII suburbanization and the American environmental movement. Beginning with the return of the GIs from the war, and the huge demand for housing they put on an already undersupplied market, the book details almost three decades' worth of conflict between an American population expanding faster than its ability to plan its growth and the physical environment their expansion inevitably brought them up against.
The first two chapters deal with the adaptation of mass-production techniques to homebuilding, as homes built one by one, by individual builders, could never possibly meet the demand posed by all the WWII veterans returning and wanting to buy homes at once. Apart from being more destructive to the land, as huge tracts would be bulldozed to build a subdivision on, the widespread adoption of "tract housing" led to dramatically increased household energy use, since homes were no longer designed with passive solar heating (or cooling, as the case may be). The third chapter moves on to the problems of septic tanks, which leaked waste (most famously, soap suds) into the groundwater, and the fourth and fifth chapters discuss efforts by conservationists and government to preserve open space in general (for aesthetic reasons) and wetlands, hillsides and floodplains in particular (for ecological and hydrological reasons). The fifth, sixth and seventh chapters also spell out the role government agencies (particularly, three: the US Geological Survey, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service) played in studying, publicizing and regulating the environmental costs of development.
What Rome does here that's new is, besides tracing the evolution of the environmental movement in parallel with the development of tract housing (which both introduced new environmental problems and put lots of people in a position to witness them firsthand, thereby raising their environmental consciousness), positing a bigger role for the federal government than previous environmental historians have been willing to grant.
He also gives a detailed intellectual history of both the environmental movement and the backlash to it --- for the former, in the baby steps taken from the aesthetic, quality-of-life approach to conservation to a more complex (and also more radical) ecological understanding, and for the latter, beyond simple economic motivations to a populist critique of "no-growth" measures (which can be seen as veiled attempts to keep out undesirable immigrants to an area) and a libertarian concern for property rights. ...more