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Disentitling the Poor: The Warren Court, Welfare Rights, and the American Political Tradition

Elizabeth Bussiere

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ISBN 10: 0271016019 / ISBN 13: 9780271016016
Published by Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997
Condition: Good Hardcover
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Title: Disentitling the Poor: The Warren Court, ...

Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press

Publication Date: 1997

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Good

Edition: 1st ed - may be Reissue.

About this title


In 1989 the Supreme Court ruled that the State of Wisconsin was not liable for the brutal beating of a young boy by his father, who had been investigated by the Department of Social Services. In DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, Chief Justice William Rehnquist's majority opinion rejected the claim of the boy's mother that her son had been deprived of his constitutional "right to life." Taking the DeShaney case as her point of departure, Elizabeth Bussiere observes that the idea of a constitutional right to life was first rejected not by the conservative Rehnquist Court but by the liberal Warren Court twenty years earlier. She investigates why the Warren Court, despite its many rulings "entitling" the poor to constitutional protections, refused to identify welfare benefits (or subsistence) as a constitutional right. Although focused on the Warren Court, the book explores Western political thought from the seventeenth through late twentieth centuries, draws on American social history from the Age of Jackson through the civil rights era of the 1960s, and utilizes current analytic methods, particularly the "new institutionalism."


"Why . . . did the [Warren] Court refuse to make minimal subsistence a fundamental right or poverty a suspect class? Bussiere argues that the explanation lies not only in the constellation of external forces pressuring the Court but also in the Court's institutional limits. . . . Bussiere's study reveals the rich possibilities of the new institutionalism. . . . Careful historical studies, such as Bussiere's, suggest that welfare policies are not determined by the economic and ideological pressures of capitalism alone. They are also the product of contingent factors such as litigation, political opportunism, social movements, and the evolution of complex patterns of institutionalization." --Frank Munger, Law and Society Review "A real analytic tour de force. It seamlessly weaves together a sophisticated understanding of American history, a subtle exposition of complex Supreme Court doctrines, and a hard-headed treatment of the realities of American politics." --Jennifer Hochschild, Harvard University "Bussiere's analysis is subtle, compelling, and timely. It will make a significant contribution to ongoing debates about law, judicial politics, and social welfare policy in the United States." --Michael McCann, University of Washington

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