Welfare, History, and the Framing of Twenty-First-Century Social Policy

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date



This essay reviews three ambitious books from Harvard University Press that make significant contributions to the difficult process of making sense of twentieth-century social policy. Together they shed light on the critical role that the “framers of solutions” to social problems play in “defining the field within which legislators and executives will ultimately maneuver.” This emphasis on the process of inventing solutions helps to explain how social policies, such as welfare, were defined and then later adopted as national policy when the crisis of the Great Depression opened up possibilities for federal action.

Publication Citation

74 Soc. Service Rev. 474 (2000).