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1 Proposal: number 116

116. SOC 222: Social Welfare as a Social Institution

Contact:Suzanne Strickland
Abstract:This course explains the tributaries that define the “pursuit of happiness” as
embedded in the constitution. American social welfare policy_as implemented
through various institutions_creates the enabling conditions that permit
American citizens the “pursuit of happiness.” The constitutional framers
adopted Aristotle’s definition of happiness and the path to achieving it.
Consequently, this course exposes students to Aristotelian principles and the
ways in which these principles under grid American social welfare policy.

American social welfare policy is at first influenced by English jurisprudence,
e.g., commonly referred to as “The English Poor Laws.” By the mid 1800’s,
successive waves of immigrants from Europe begin to come to America, and this
influx challenges the European legal framework. America begins to understand
the immigrant experience_and its implication for democracy_through the eclectic
contributions made by social reformers, journalists, scientists, and the influx
into America of prominent European thinkers, who begin to modify their European
perspectives by the American experience. These forces shape American social
welfare institutions created in the 19th Century that begin to mediate between
the harshness of capitalism and the rights of man.

In the 20th Century, as America emerges as the leader of the free world, social
welfare institutions are again reshaped by economic and political changes in
the world and in the country.
Crafting social welfare policy in a democracy is a complex task that requires
policy-makers to ask hard questions. How does social welfare policy shape the
character of a citizen? Can social welfare policy effectively promote
equality? What constitutes good social policy; does empirical evidence prove
the efficacy of policy approaches, or are there broader theoretical questions
that define effectiveness? To answer these questions, this course traces the
philosophical, economic, political and historic tributaries that shaped the
United States’ social welfare system. Students will gain an understanding of
the interplay of these factors, and how the contours of contemporary social
policy continue to illustrate this complex weave of philosophical, economic,
political and historic events.

The first large-scale challenge to social welfare policy in America occurred
with the immigration of 1845. Beyond the significance of integrating large
waves of immigrants, the Chicago experience begins to shape an indigenous
American Sociology. We will examine the settlement house movement in Chicago
and its significance to American social science by reading Jane Adams’s book,
The Spirit of Youth and The City Streets. Class reading will also focus on
Jacob Riis’s parallel account of New York City’s immigrant experience.

The class will define the evolution of government’s role in social welfare by
focusing first on Al Smith’s important influence as a ward boss from the Lower
East Side of New York City, to the governorship of New York, and finally to the
national stage as a candidate for the presidency. Then we will discuss the
critical impact of Franklin Roosevelt’s policies as governor of New York and
later as president. These policies had a far reaching impact in building a
federal role for social welfare.

Examining Post-WW II America, the class will analyze how government policies of
the late 1940’s and 1950’s contributed to prosperity for many Americans, but at
the same time, as Michael Harrington posited, these strategies created serious
”social deficits” for southern blacks, displaced industrial workers and the
elderly. The Other America, by Michael Harrington explains why America needed
to fight The War on Poverty to help those at risk. The Great Society sought to
redress these “social deficits,” but several theorists argued that the
strategies developed to ameliorate the problems did not achieve that goal. We
will examine the empirical evidence used to evaluate these programs to discern
what some of the failures were. Losing Ground by Charles Murray provides a
provocative explanation for this failure. This examination formed the basis for
the welfare reform overall of 1994.

The last part of the course will define the current social welfare challenges
posed in the 21st Century.

Submissions and Approvals

Course Date Requirement Action By Whom Notes
SOC 222 2008-10-30 CV Submitted Dept
SOC 222 2008-10-30 US Submitted Dept
SOC 222 2009-03-04 CV Approved GEAC
SOC 222 2009-03-04 US Approved GEAC
SOC 222 2009-04-02 CV Approved UCC
SOC 222 2009-04-02 US Approved UCC
SOC 222 2009-04-02 CV Approved Senate
SOC 222 2009-04-02 US Approved Senate