Date of Degree

9-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Frances Fox Piven

Committee Members

Ruth Milkman

Carolina Bank Munoz

Robin D.G. Kelley

Kathi Weeks

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Other Sociology | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Work, Economy and Organizations

Keywords

Universal Basic Income, welfare, antiwork, feminism, social reproduction, African American

Abstract

Situated temporally between the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement, the Welfare Rights Movement of the 1960s and 70s distinguished itself by its militant critique of waged labor. Returning to the movement’s archives I examine how the mostly poor, Black, female participants developed their “antiwork politics”, how they asserted their right to live not only meager but occasionally luxurious lives—demanding not only bread but also roses. In the courts, streets, welfare offices, department stores, policy proposals, and numerous internal debates, these women waged national battles to assert full autonomy over their families, consumption, sexuality, and their own time.

As working class people continue to struggle to obtain the basic necessities despite working full time jobs, we may view welfare activists— the frustrations and challenges they faced, as well as the alternatives they proposed— as modern day Cassandras, signaling not only the problems of a society that emphasized work as the solution to all its ills, but also prescient in the alternatives they imagined.

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