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Shifts in social welfare policy.

I write regarding Charles R. Atherton's review of Neil Gilbert's Transformation of the Welfare State: The Silent Surrender of Public Responsibility (October 2005, p. 370). Although I disagree with Atherton's opening statement that "this is the most important book on social welfare policy in the past 50 years," I salute the journal for reviewing a work that critically examines what is happening here and abroad with social welfare policy. The trends are ominous and discouraging. Convergence in social policies among nations is occurring, but social safety nets are diminishing almost everywhere.

Gilbert's significant book is robust in describing specific alterations taking place in many countries but is less clear about why this is happening so broadly now. Two recent books that speak more to the why of current changes in the social welfare policy arena are David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism and Lawrence R. Jacobs and Theda Skocpol's Inequality and American Democracy: What We Know and What We Need to Learn.

Social welfare policy processes are distorted in most countries now through destructive political and economic policies that are mutually reinforcing. Ordinary people are in great danger of losing more social and public supports. What happens in social welfare policy is rooted in politics and economics. Understanding the connections between political and economic inequality explains a lot about current social welfare policy shifts. Social work needs much more exposure to contemporary works on politics and economics.

David J. Dempsey

Silver Spring, MD
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Title Annotation:LETTERS
Author:Dempsey, David J.
Publication:Social Work
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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