Reclaiming SPSSI's Radical Promise: A Critical Look at JSI's “Impact of Welfare Reform” Issue

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Abstract

Studies of the impact of welfare reform reported in the Winter 2000 issue of JSI uniformly conclude that the results are mixed. Uncritically accepting the “official story” that success can be evaluated by the numbers of former welfare recipients who are working, the researchers, adopting a neutral “objective” perspective, focus on “barriers” to achieving this goal. We argue that this “honest broker” model, in which researchers provide “scientific” data to those in power, neglects the roles of social psychologists as social critics and political activists that were among the diverse perspectives among SPSSI's founders. We call for a rebirth of these more radical orientations and offer examples of research approaches that involve entering into alliances with oppressed groups in society. We hope our critique will stimulate wider discussion about SPSSI's future mission.

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