Welfare and Power: More Harm Than Good? Essay

780 Words 4 Pages
In her article, "To Fulfill Their `Rightly Needs': Consumerism and the National Welfare Rights Movement," Felicia Kornbluh reflects on the relationship between welfare departments and the lower class recipients. Noting the battle over the content of the budget between beneficiaries of welfare and authorities (Kornbluh, 94), Kornbluh points to "fair hearings" as a solution to disputes (97). Yet, the hearings may amount to nothing due to the fact that the same authorities concerned in the battle also run the hearings, thereby creating a struggle of power between recipients and welfare departments. Theorists Michel Foucault and Emile Durkheim analyze the function of power in relation to the welfare state in order to determine the …show more content…
Welfare beneficiaries themselves perpetuate the problem by creating a dependence on welfare departments. Recipients cannot dominate the relationship between themselves and welfare departments or merchants and thus must concede all power to these groups. Foucault would argue that this dependence on the system creates no motivation in welfare recipients to better themselves or rise in society and therefore devalues the fundamental ideals of welfare. Although Kornbluh claims that "Fair hearings, trial-like administrative procedures...became a particularly effective back up tool for protests over the budgeting decisions of local welfare department" (97), such "fair hearings" may not produce any results. These "trial-like...procedures" favor caseworkers and welfare departments who essentially run the hearings and can choose to make the same decisions previously made and deny any appeals, as occurred in the case of Margaret Hayes (Kornbluh, 98). The "fair hearings" may not provide lower-class citizens in need of the money to raise themselves up to a fair level of standards and therefore Foucault would not view welfare as a success. Because welfare recipients tend to become dependent and have no way of gaining power, the welfare system does nothing to promote equality and instead magnifies the differences in classes due to the difficulty the lower class has in gaining power.

While Foucault devalues the notion of welfare, Durkheim

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