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Inventing the Needy

Gender and the Politics of Welfare in Hungary

Lynne Haney (Author)

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Inventing the Needy offers a powerful, innovative analysis of welfare policies and practices in Hungary from 1948 to the last decade of the twentieth century. Using a compelling mix of archival, interview, and ethnographic data, Lynne Haney shows that three distinct welfare regimes succeeded one another during that period and that they were based on divergent conceptions of need. The welfare society of 1948-1968 targeted social institutions, the maternalist welfare state of 1968-1985 targeted social groups, and the liberal welfare state of 1985-1996 targeted impoverished individuals. Because they reflected contrasting conceptions of gender and of state-recognized identities, these three regimes resulted in dramatically different lived experiences of welfare.

Haney's approach bridges the gaps in scholarship that frequently separate past and present, ideology and reality, and state policies and local practices. A wealth of case histories gleaned from the archives of welfare institutions brings to life the interactions between caseworkers and clients and the ways they changed over time. In one of her most provocative findings, Haney argues that female clients' ability to use the state to protect themselves in everyday life diminished over the fifty-year period. As the welfare system moved away from linking entitlement to clients' social contributions and toward their material deprivation, the welfare system, and those associated with it, became increasingly stigmatized and pathologized. With its focus on shifting inventions of the needy, this broad historical ethnography brings new insights to the study of welfare state theory and politics.
List of Tables
Introduction: Conceptualizing the Welfare State
Part One:
The Welfare Society, 1948–1968
Chapter 1: Socializing Need:
The Restructuring of Social and Economic Institutions
Chapter 2: Strategies of Integration:
Collectivism and Individualism
Part Two:
The Maternalist Welfare State, 1968–1985
The Dynamics of Change: Hungarian Professionals Reform the Welfare Society
Chapter 3: Maternalizing Need:
Specialization and the Quality Control of Motherhood
Chapter 4: Strategies of Expansion:
Possibilities and Limitations
Part Three:
The Liberal Welfare State, 1985–1996
The Dynamics of Change: Professionalization and Globalization
Chapter 5: Materializing Need:
The Regulation of Poverty and the Stigmatization of the Poor
Chapter 6: Strategies of Excavation:
Inclusions and Exclusions
Conclusion: Welfare Lessons from East to West
Methodological Appendix: Historical Excavation in an Era of Censorship

Lynne Haney is Assistant Professor of Sociology at New York University.
“Lynne Haney’s precise, well-argued and interesting book is a valuable account. Inventing the Needy is an outstanding combination of sociology, anthropology and history with a wonderfully detailed inner structure of scholarly theory. Filled with theoretical insight . . .”—Carolina Ivanescu Anthropology In Action
"In her beautifully written, deeply researched, and elegantly argued book, Lynne Haney shows how much American policy-makers can learn from Hungary's social welfare experience. By unpacking the very different strategies that Hungary has adopted during the past half-century, Haney's account illuminates basic policy choices about how a society—any society—addresses the problems of poverty. It makes indispensable reading for those, on both sides of the Atlantic, who care about the lives of the poor."—David Kirp, author of Gender Justice

"Inventing the Needy is a theoretically engaged and methodologically innovative ethnography of Hungarian welfare regimes from 1948 to 1996. Studying the state 'from below,' her multi-layered and multi-sited analysis of the transformations in state policies and institutional practices, and their effects on everyday life, is an important contribution to comparative studies of welfare states, the social construction of the materialization and materialization of need, as well as to critical socialist, postsocialist, and feminist studies. Well-written, lucidly argued, thoughtful, and thought-provoking!"—Gail Kligman, author of The Politics of Duplicity: Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescu's Romania

"Inventing the Needy stands at the forefront of a new generation of revisionist scholarship. It dispenses with the sharp dichotomies of capitalism and communism and forsakes triumphal interpretations of the transition to the free market and liberal democracy. Looking at Hungary through the eyes of women and their experiences with successive welfare regimes, Lynne Haney offers a more balanced and variegated picture of the state socialist past and a more sober account of the capitalist present. Inventing the Needy is a brilliant combination of ethnography, history, and theory."—Michael Burawoy, co-author of Global Ethnography: Forces, Connections, and Imaginations in a Postmodern World

"Lynne Haney's provocative, original, and altogether brilliant study of welfare restructuring in Hungary in the wake of 1989 challenges us to rethink gender, states and social policies in both 'east' and 'west,' while providing essential conceptual tools for doing so."—Ann Shola Orloff, coauthor of States, Markets, Families: Gender, Liberalism and Social Policy in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the United States

"This important book engages the central issue sociology faces after the fall of communism. Inventing the Needy is a careful, empirically well documented, and beautifully written analysis of the Hungarian welfare system during and after socialism. Haney shows that a critical analysis of capitalism is possible from the perspective of a socialist alternative, even today. She challenges 'transitologists,' who often contrast an idealized capitalist present with a homogeneous and negative view of socialism. This book is a must for those interested in theoretical debates about socialism and capitalism and in the welfare state and gender relations under and after socialism."—Ivan Szelenyi, author of Privatizing the Land: Rural Political Economy in Post-Communist and Socialist Societies and co-author of Making Capitalism without Capitalists: Class Formation and Elite Struggles in Post-Communist Central Europe

Sex and Gender Section Distinguished Book Award, American Sociological Association

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