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Work Requirements: Race, Disability, and the Print Culture of Social Welfare

by Todd Carmody

Duke University Press, 2022


Cloth: 978-1-4780-1544-4

Paper: 978-1-4780-1807-0

eISBN: 978-1-4780-2268-8

OA eISBN: 978-1-4780-9283-4

About the Book
Throughout the history of the United States, work-based social welfare practices have served to affirm the moral value of work. In the late nineteenth century this representational project came to be mediated by the printed word with the emergence of industrial print technologies, the expansion of literacy, and the rise of professionalization. In Work Requirements Todd Carmody asks how work, even the most debasing or unproductive labor, came to be seen as inherently meaningful during this era. He explores how the print culture of social welfare—produced by public administrators, by economic planners, by social scientists, and in literature and the arts—tasked people on the social and economic margins, specifically racial minorities, incarcerated people, and people with disabilities, with shoring up the fundamental dignity of work as such. He also outlines how disability itself became a tool of social discipline, defined by bureaucratized institutions as the inability to work. By interrogating the representational effort necessary to make work seem inherently meaningful, Carmody ultimately reveals a forgotten history of competing efforts to think social belonging beyond or even without work.
About the Author
Todd Carmody is a writer, researcher, and strategy consultant in New York and a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute.
"Work Requirements is a creative, persuasive, and well-crafted analysis of the representational labor undergirding our “work society”. It is essential reading for anyone seeking to contest this mode of social organization."

-- Karen M. Tani International Journal of Social History

"Work Requirements is an accessible and focused text, assembling a diverse theoretical and historical archive. It contributes to disability literatures and histories, print culture studies, welfare histories, and intersectional studies in race and disability in the US."

-- Milo Obourn American Literary History Online Review

Welfare recipients, Print Culture, Social Welfare, Work, People with Disabilities, Race, African Americans, African American & Black Studies, Social conditions, Social aspects, Cultural & Ethnic Studies, American, United States, Social Science, History
Open Access Information

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0