Work and the Welfare State

Street-Level Organizations and Workfare Politics

Evelyn Z. Brodkin and Gregory Marston, Editors

"This book is the first to bring a street-level approach to international research on welfare state policy, politics, and management, offering a clear and coherent interpretation of how workfare-style policies are taking shape on the ground."
+ Add to Cart Preorder


Request Print Exam Copy

Request Digital Exam Copy

Work and the Welfare State places street-level organizations at the analytic center of welfare-state politics, policy, and management. This volume offers a critical examination of efforts to change the welfare state to a workfare state by looking at on-the-ground issues in six countries: the US, UK, Australia, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.

An international group of scholars contribute organizational studies that shed new light on old debates about policies of workfare and activation. Peeling back the political rhetoric and technical policy jargon, these studies investigate what really goes on in the name of workfare and activation policies and what that means for the poor, unemployed, and marginalized populations subject to these policies. By adopting a street-level approach to welfare state research, Work and the Welfare State reveals the critical, yet largely hidden, role of governance and management reforms in the evolution of the global workfare project. It shows how these reforms have altered organizational arrangements and practices to emphasize workfare’s harsher regulatory features and undermine its potentially enabling ones.

As a major contribution to expanding the conceptualization of how organizations matter to policy and political transformation, this book will be of special interest to all public management and public policy scholars and students.

Table of Contents


Part I: Introduction
1. Work and the Welfare State
Evelyn Z. Brodkin
2. Street-Level Organizations and the Welfare State
Evelyn Z. Brodkin

Part II: What's at Issue: Politics, Policies, and Jobs
3. The American Welfare State: Two Narratives
Michael Lipsky
4. The Policies of Workfare: At the Boundaries between Work and the Welfare
Evelyn Z. Brodkin and Flemming Larsen
5. Double Jeopardy: The Misfit between Welfare-to-Work Requirements and Job
Susan Lambert and Julia Henly

Part III: Governance and Management: Workfare’s “Second Track”
6. Triple Activation: Introducing Welfare-to-Work into Dutch Social Assistance
Rik van Berkel
7. Active Labor Market Reform in Denmark: The Role of Governance in Policy
Flemming Larsen
8. Performance Management as a Disciplinary Regime: Street-Level Organizations
in a Neoliberal Era of Poverty Governance
Joe Soss, Sanford Schram, and Richard Fording

Part IV: Street-Level Organizations and the Practices of Workfare
9. Commodification, Inclusion, or What? Workfare in Everyday Organizational
Evelyn Z. Brodkin
10. Race, Respect, and Red Tape: Inside the Black Box of Racially Representative
Celeste Watkins-Hayes
11. Good Intentions and Institutional Blindness: Migrant Populations and the Implementation of German Activation Policy
Martin Brussig and Matthias Knuth
12. Front-line Workers as Intermediaries: The Changing Landscape of Disability and Employment Services in Australia
Gregory Marston

Part V: Administrative Justice: Challenging Workfare Practices
13. Challenging Workfare Practices: Conditionality, Sanctions, and the Weakness of Redress Mechanisms in the British “New Deal”
Michael Adler
14. Redress and Accountability in US Welfare Agencies
Vicki Lens

Part VI: Conclusion
15. Work and the Welfare State Reconsidered: Street-Level Organizations and the Global Workfare Project
Evelyn Z. Brodkin




"The strength of Persuasion and Power is its exhaustive research, reflected in numerous vignettes and research that compellingly illustrate successful concepts, benefits, and failures of strategic communication. Scholars and strategic communicators alike will be impressed with Farewell’s research and proposed solutions to enhance strategic communication. Persuasion and Power is a must-read for those with an interest in strategic communication."—Military Review

"A valuable volume on the spread of workfare initiatives in western industrialized countries . . . a bold and important intervention . . . The volume takes on one of the most significant developments in social policy in the past four decades . . . and submits it to a comprehensive and crossnational analysis. . . . Work and the Welfare State will serve as an indispensable guide to the questions that need to be answered, and a powerful reminder of why they are so consequential."—Perspectives on Politics

"This book is the first to bring a street-level approach to international research on welfare state policy, politics, and management, offering a clear and coherent interpretation of how workfare-style policies are taking shape on the ground."—Social Service Review

"This book is the first to bring a street-level approach to international research on welfare state policy, politics, and management, offering a clear and coherent interpretation of how workfare-style policies are taking shape on the ground."—School of Social Service Administration Magazine, U of Chicago

"This is a superb volume providing the most comprehensive analysis of the operation of workfare globally from the standpoint of street-level bureaucracy. Brodkin and Marston masterfully weave together a picture of workfare that illustrates how the commonalities of workfare programs from different parts of the globe are transformed into very different practices as a result of the mediating effects of street-level organizations. Their focus on practice provides an unparalleled view of how workfare actually works. Work and the Welfare State is a thoughtful, innovative piece of scholarship that will inform a host of disciplines on the significance of an organization-centered approach to the investigation of how political and managerial factors translate policies and programs into practice."—Norma Riccucci, professor, Rutgers University, Newark

"In Western democracies change is sweeping over social policy and governance—contracting out, ‘activation,’ sanctions, performance measurement—while the poor struggle to support their families in an economy with fewer low-skilled, stable jobs. The contributors to Work and the Welfare State tell of the street-level workers negotiating the boundary between the increasingly indifferent state and the increasingly desperate and discouraged families they serve. Taken as a whole this book is a clear-eyed and comprehensive, if disheartening, look at the ‘state of the welfare state’ in the US, Europe, Britain, and Australia."—Steven Maynard-Moody, professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas

"Beyond policies on paper, this book tells the real story about workfare practices. The links made between macro-, meso- and micro-levels of analysis highlight unexpected aspects of what happens inside the welfare state."—Peter Hupe, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Visiting Fellow 2012-2013, All Souls College, Oxford

"Work and the Welfare State offers a richly textured and nuanced picture of workfare policies across the globe. The book provides a convincing argument for the importance of understanding the real world of workfare at street level, and an insightful analysis of the interrelation of workfare and the increasingly parsimonious and punitive nature of the business of public management."—Tony Evans, professor of social work, Royal Holloway University of London

"This is a great book on welfare reform that shows how concrete organizational patterns determine huge political and policy issues. How does workfare really work? This volume addresses this question by looking at the actual practices in street-level welfare bureaucracies in the US, Europe, and Australia. This proves to be the best way to account for the widely shared but still very diverse policy orientations encapsulated under the motto of welfare-to-work. A must-read for all those interested in welfare politics, policy implementation and public administration."—Vincent Dubois, professor, University of Strasbourg and Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, The University of Strasbourg, France

"This remarkable book brings together wide-ranging and deeply illuminating studies within a cohesive, powerful framework that links policy, practice, and politics in contemporary workfare states."—Noah Zatz, professor of law, UCLA Law School

"This is a pathbreaking volume in joining together the literatures on street-level bureaucratic practice, new public management, and work-oriented welfare state policies in an international context. It is an important and compelling contribution to understanding how the welfare state is changing in the 21st century and the implications of these changes for our most vulnerable citizens."—R. Kent Weaver, Georgetown University and The Brookings Institution


Michael Adler Evelyn Z. Brodkin Martin Brussig Richard Fording Julia Henly Matthias Knuth Susan Lambert Flemming Larsen Vicki Lens Michael Lipsky Gregory Marston Sanford Schram Joe Soss Rik van Berkel Celeste Watkins-Hayes

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Evelyn Z. Brodkin is an associate professor at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. She is the author of The False Promise of Administrative Reform. Brodkin has held visiting professorships in Australia, Denmark, France, and Mexico; received the Herbert Kaufman Award from APSA; and was named a Fellow of the Open Society Institute.

Gregory Marston is a professor of social policy at the School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

336 pp., 6 x 9
1 figure, 14 tables
Oct 2013
Not available for sale in UK, Ireland, and Europe

336 pp., 6 x 9
1 figure, 14 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-000-2
Oct 2013
Not available for sale in UK, Ireland, and Europe

336 pp.
1 figure, 14 tables
ISBN: 978-1-62616-001-9
Oct 2013
Not available for sale in UK, Ireland, and Europe

Public Management and Change series
Beryl A. Radin, Series Editor

Related Titles