Unwanted Claims

The Politics of Participation in the U.S. Welfare System
Joe Soss
Presents a political analysis of the U.S. welfare system as a site of politics for recipients


Large numbers of Americans claim public resources and participate in direct relationships with government through a diversity of welfare programs. Public debate over these programs often ignores their political significance, focusing instead on the economic and moral questions raised by welfare policy. By contrast, Unwanted Claims shows how welfare programs, such as social insurance and public assistance, affect the lives of ordinary citizens.

Welfare programs, depending on their designs, can draw citizens into a more inclusive and vibrant democracy or treat them in ways that reinforce their social and political marginality. Joe Soss investigates why citizens turn to the welfare programs, how they view the welfare system, and what they learn about themselves and government from their experiences.

Unwanted Claims thus offers an accessible and humanizing portrait of welfare participation that challenges conventional wisdom and raises important questions about poverty, welfare, and democracy in America. In making extensive use of clients' own descriptions of their experiences, beliefs, and actions, this work of political sociology will prove illuminating to scholars, students, policy practitioners, and the general public.

Joe Soss is Associate Professor of Government at American University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Unwanted Claims is an important book that rewards the reader on many levels; not the least of these is the pleasure of good writing. This book examines the intersection of the state and citizen from the point of view of individuals claiming welfare. Soss weaves a diverse literature into his argument, giving his book considerable intellectual clout. . . . Anyone interested in welfare policy, the relationship of citizen to state, or public affairs in general will be rewarded by reading Unwanted Claims. . . . Be intellectually engaged in an important argument and at times be moved by these fellow citizens."
    —Steven Maynard-Moody, Social Service Review

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 256pp.
  • 2 drawings, 4 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11168-8

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  • $89.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08902-4

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  • $28.95 U.S.