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Spring 2024


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In the Name of the Family: The Moral Uses of Welfare
Melinda Cooper interviewed on WFHB’s Interchange
In the Name of the Family: The Moral Uses of Welfare

Melinda Cooper was recently on an episode of Interchange. She spoke with host Doug Storm about the history of welfare in America, and about the role neoliberalism had in shaping it. They also speak about how the idea of family responsibility created a bridge between neoliberals and social conservatives, a pairing which shapes American discourse to this day. You can listen to the episode here. You can read more about Melinda’s book Family Values here.

It’s a wonderful interview, and WFHB, Interchange’s home station, is an amazing bastion of community radio! The interview is broken up into four segments:

SEGMENT ONE What’s so wrong with welfare? Melinda Cooper offers us a brief history of welfare and also of the Elizabethan Poor Laws.

SEGMENT TWO Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism: an attempt is made to distinguish between these two political designations.

SEGMENT THREE Cooper insists that the breadth and depth of our neoliberal worldview was born of a backlash to extra-parliamentary strength of the radical left in the 1970s, particularly the fear that sexual liberation was destroying the bonds (or shackles) of Family Values. ?

SEGMENT FOUR Cooper offers a specific example of how neoliberals shape policy and actually twist welfare-oriented ideas (an economics of public spending to support public well-being AND fiscal health) toward the private sector and debt-chains for families and individuals–in this case human capital theory and student loans. And we’ll close with a nod toward Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains and how James Buchanan’s Virginia School neoliberalism always seems to serve its moralism with a soupçon of economic narrative.