It has been suggested that policy analysis has come to serve the needs of the state at the expense of the citizens. In the case of welfare policy, it often seems geared towards managing poverty rather than trying to lessen it, with a focus on controlling the behaviour of "the poor". "Words of Welfare" offers an important and enlightening critique of how welfare policy is analyzed and set in the US, illustrating that how we study issues affects what ultimately gets done about them. Despite large amounts of funding to support social science research on the causes of poverty, little progress has been made in reducing the problem, and, in fact, poverty appears to have worsened dramatically in recent years. Partly at fault, Schram argues, is that research on poverty and welfare dependency is frequently based on certain questionable assumptions about the economic structures of late capitalist societies. Thus the concern of perspective in social science research has never been fully addressed.
Issues examined in "Words of Welfare" include the drawing of the poverty line, the setting of benefit levels, the feminization of poverty, homelessness, the underclass, welfare dependency, recent attempts to reform welfare, and the implications for welfare in the emerging global, postindustrial economy. Schram demonstrates how research on these issues can be done differently and more effectively. Providing an illuminating view of welfare policy in the US, "Words of Welfare" should provoke extensive discussion in a wide variety of related fields.
Interrogations: suffer in silence - the subtext of social policy research; discourses of dependency - the politics of euphimisms; inverting political economy: perspective, position, and discourse in the analysis of welfare. Demonstrations: bottom-up discourse - narrating the privatization of public assistance; home economists as the real economists; rewriting social policy history. Applications: the real uses of a false dichotomy - symbols at the expense of substance in welfare reform; the feminization of poverty - from statistical artifact to established policy; waltzing with the rapper - industrial welfare policy meets post-industril poverty.