America. By Linda Faye Williams. University Park: The Pennsylvania
State University Press, 2003. 440p. $35.00 cloth, $27.95 paper.
Linda Faye Williams's book seeks to identify “how, when
and why American social policy became fused with the politics of
race” and what that has meant for the development and evolution
of the welfare state in the United States. The author's central
argument is that the welfare state was “grafted onto preexisting
conditions of race relations,” and the long-term consequence of
this grafting is that even today, the organization of social policy in
the United States continues to reproduce advantages for whites and
disadvantages for many people of color. Further, as social welfare
policy institutionalizes white advantage, this in turn tends to block
movement in the direction of more universalistic social policy (p. 14).
Williams supports this contention by revisiting the political history
of social welfare policy, from just after the Civil War up to the
Clinton administration's efforts at welfare “reform”