In my paper, I’d like to examine the changes of the social safety net that exists within the United States, particularly between 1975-2000’s. Some of the key aspects that I will be focusing on include: A) the removal of the “Aid to Families with Dependent Children” act, B) the current state of unemployment benefits, C) the erosion of healthcare, and D) has world hunger grown? Some of the writers that I will mention are the ones we’ve discussed in class, such as Karl Polanyi, Nancy Fraser, Cindi Katz, and Jan Breman.
The brilliant critical theorist, Nancy Fraser, is well known for using “post-modernism” in her analysis, which simply means that everything we’ve known is subject to scrutiny in one way or another. She is also notorious for questioning women’s rights, but also shares a quintessential view on social welfare. Fraser, like many other individuals, argues that the state is responsible for human social welfare. I couldn’t agree more with Fraser; I believe it is the duty of the U.S. government (or any other government for that matter) to provide its citizens with the necessary resources required to survive in a modern society. Fraser also states that the term “social protection” has been removed mostly over the entire world. For example, the beautiful country of Greece has a poor job market, and bad pension. In one of Fraser’s readings, she states the reason we don’t have any “resistance”, is because we do not have a “triple movement”, which I will discuss later. We can all agree that social welfare programs are designed to improve the well-being of vulnerable populations, or at least give them a means of survival. Some of the historical factors that have contributed to the growth/decline of social welfare states include: the necessity for welfare, political determinants, and fiscal capacity. In my opinion, social welfare states can only experience economic prosperity, if: A) the involved states’ poverty levels aren’t drastically high, or B) the program leads to higher employment rates. Karl Polanyi, a world renowned political economist, created an interesting thesis known as the “Double Movement”, which states that “while rapid market expansion was encouraged, a counter movement was taking place to protect citizens from the self-regulating market”. It’s certainly an interesting theory, even though it seems a bit paradoxical. Nancy Fraser argued that a “Triple Movement” is necessary to expand social protections in this neoliberal era. In this case, Fraser’s triple movement consists of: First Movement- toward marketization of economy, Second Movement- Growth of Protest, Third Movement- Emancipation (of African Americans and women). Another interesting topic Fraser talks about is the concept of “family wage”, which simply means the government provides income for people who don’t/can’t work. Fraser states that Family Wage is necessary, not to be confused with Social Wage; which is provided as a means to moderate the labor market. Some of the social wage programs we’ve discussed in class include: unemployment insurance, Medicare, food stamps, and social security. Family Wage would primarily be assisting the Reserve Army of Labor, which is representative of all unpaid, non-working, yet ready to work individuals. During the mid-20th century, Europeans had a similar concept of Family Wage in which any member of family should have a means of support, where they can’t be tied to wages in a capitalist system. Even though that concept does sound intriguing and makes me wonder how it would endure in America, I’m going to have to disagree with it because I don’t believe it’s a realistic concept. Cindi Katz, a Geographer and professor, is an important modern Marxist who is interested in examining the social sphere, and coined the term “social reproduction”. This term basically consists of what we do outside of work (as opposed to what...
Cited: 1. Hill, Zoelene. "How Social Safety Net Programs Affect Family Economic Well-Being, Family Functioning, and Children’s Development." Child Development Perspectives 7.3 (2013): 172-81. Web.
2. Fraser, Nancy. 2013 Fortunes of Feminism: From Women’s Liberation to Identity Politics to Anti-Capitalism. New York: Verso
3. Breman, Jan. 2007. Myth of Global Safety Net. New Left Review, 59, Sept-Oct, pp. 29-36
4. Tsebelis, George, and Roland Stephen. "Monitoring Unemployment Benefits in Comparative Perspective." Political Research Quarterly 47.4 (1994): 793. Print.
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