Socializing Security examines the early movement for worker-security legislation in the United States. It focuses on a group of academic economists who became leading proponents of social insurance and protective labor legislation during the first decades of the twentieth century. These economists—including John R. Commons and Richard T. Ely—founded the American Association for Labor Legislation (AALL). As intellectuals and political activists, they theorized about the social efficiency of security legislation, proposed policies, and drafted model bills. They campaigned vigorously for industrial safety laws, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and compulsory health insurance.
The AALL reformers were successful in some of their legislative campaigns, but failed in two of their most important ones, those for unemployment insurance and health insurance. In examining the obstacles that the reformers faced, David Moss highlights a variety of political and institutional constraints, including the constitutional doctrine of federalism and gender-biased judicial decisions.
The goal of the AALL reformers, Moss demonstrates, was not to relieve the poor, but rather to prevent workers and their families from falling into poverty as a result of accidents or illness. In favoring security over relief, economists in the progressive era defined and confirmed what has remained, for some eighty years, one of the essential values of American social policy. In concluding, Moss suggests that new policies may now be necessary in an economy in which falling wages and fewer jobs, rather than industrial hazards, are increasingly to blame for the precarious situation of the American worker.
By emphasizing the role of intellectual elites in social policy developments, the book is a timely contribution to the recent literature about the emergence and production of ‘social knowledge’… Socializing Security is a contribution of great relevance to ongoing theoretical debates as well as to the studies of the development of the American welfare state.
Socializing Security makes a major contribution to several fields, namely the history of the welfare state in America, the Progressive Era, the intellectual history of economics, and the responses to the industrial revolution… A splendid piece of work.
An important contribution to the ongoing debate over the origins of the modern state. Moss very deftly and very persuasively lays out the significance of the American Association for Labor Legislation for our understanding of labor reform and the rise of the welfare state in the Progressive Era.
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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