An African American Welfare State


Histories of the American welfare state have been white histories, in part because scholars have presumed that welfare state institutions are benevolent and exist to assist those in need. But if we take seriously work that instead focuses upon the degree to which welfare state regimes affect citizens' freedom to survive apart from dependence on the labor market or upon a male breadwinner, along with scholarship that highlights the malign functions of relief, then explicitly repressive institutions become legitimately within the purview of welfare state analysis. This article makes the formative case that slavery, Jim Crow, and the prison might be considered welfare state institutions, given their impact upon the material well-being of so many Americans. Because these institutions have most affected blacks, we might have reason to distinguish between a white welfare state and an African American welfare state, and reject the notion that we can coherently speak of the welfare state.

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New Political Science


Taylor & Francis

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