Contact: Gregory Hooks, WSU Department of Sociology, 509-335-3687, email@example.com
WSU Researcher Links State of US Welfare to Growth of Military-Industrial Complex
PULLMAN, Wash. – A leading Washington State University sociologist argues in a recently published study that the United States' failure to achieve health care and social welfare reforms on a par with the world's other most affluent democracies was a result of the growth of the U.S. military-industrial complex during World War II.
In an article published this month in "American Sociological Review," WSU Sociologists Gregory Hooks and Brian McQueen, argue that economic mobilization and the creation of the military-industrial complex in the U.S. was a major factor in the electoral defeat of Democratic congressional members from the North and West who had championed the New Deal Policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
While New Deal social programs had helped Democrats win congressional elections in the 1930s, the researchers found the nation's heavy investment in war manufacturing and resulting demographic shifts – including the migration of blacks and other minorities seeking defense-related work, caused Democrats to lose ground politically both during and after the war, especially in the nation's larger war production centers.
Federal investments in defense industries, particularly in aviation, had a powerful impact on employment, the researchers note. With defense contractors providing well-paying jobs, New Deal employment programs grew increasingly less popular, prompting Republicans to achieve significant political gains.
"This study helps explain why the late 1940s was a critical juncture in the development of the U.S. welfare state," said Hooks and McQueen." Although wartime elections that proved costly to northern and western Democrats were not in any simple way a referenda on New Deal social policies, these elections played a profound role in institutionalizing the United States' 'stingy welfare state.'"
Despite repeated efforts by the Truman Administration, the post-war congress declined to expand on the universal New Deal social policies of the preceding congress, opting instead for what the researchers call "an uneven patchwork of public and private alternatives which left an enduring imprint on the nation's social policy." Conservative postwar congresses rejected universal health care and social welfare.
Hooks and McQueen write that, in the U.S. and other developed nations, the social policy reforms that emerged in the first decade following the end of WWII have endured and continue to reflect the political ideologies which inspired them at the time.
"Where a robust welfare state was created, these policies and programs were consolidated in the ensuing decades," the researchers write. "Where efforts to consolidate a welfare state failed during this critical period, subsequent efforts have confronted the greatest obstacles."
Hooks' research is concerned with issues of human rights, such as the extent and causes of torture and prison abuse in times of war. He also explores the effects of prison expansion and militarism on community economic well-being. His research expands the issues of social justice to consider environmental justice and injustice. He has served as a Soros Senior Justice Fellow.
McQueen earned his doctorate in sociology from Washington State University. His dissertation research situates intergroup (racial) tensions and electoral politics in a spatial context. With a focus on electoral dynamics during and after the Civil Rights reforms of the 1960s, he examines variation in Democratic electoral losses and gains attributable to local racial dynamics. He also examines the manner in which Civil Right reforms and resulting electoral politics created a national Democratic Party as opposed to the deeply fractured Democratic Party of prior decades.
The full text of Hooks' and McQueen's article, entitled "American Exceptionalism Revisited: The Military-Industrial Complex, Racial Tension, and the Underdeveloped Welfare State," is available in the April edition of "American Sociological Review."
The flagship journal of the American Sociological Association (ASA), "American Sociological Review" was founded in 1936 with the mission to publish original works of interest to the sociology discipline in general, new theoretical developments, results of research that advance our understanding of fundamental social processes, and important methodological innovations.