Charity Begins At Home

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, when she was asked her opinion of her cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt, described him as "One third mush and two thirds Eleanor." The same could be said of FDR's creation, the welfare state: one third mush; two thirds Eleanor. The New Deal was revolutionary in its scope, and like every social revolution of modern times, it began as an effort to restore some form of precapitalist community. The architects of the welfare state saw their handiwork as an attempt to diminish anomie, to restore the grounds for community under modern conditions. As one advocate put it, the welfare state was a "manifestation of society's will to survive as an organic whole," in a world where natural communities of sharing and caring no longer functioned.

The family is among those communities said to be failing in their altruistic tasks. In its approach to the family, the Western welfare state has taken two forms. In the first phase, the welfare state applied the communitarian model, seeking to shore up a traditional family order. In the second phase, the more advanced welfare state has fallen back on a peculiar form of individualism which aims at a post-family order. In tracing this evolution of the welfare state, key questions become: Are these two phases historically independent, and the progression from the first to the second but an accident of change? Or did the second phase follow necessarily from the...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here