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Cheating Welfare


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Challenges assumptions about welfare policies, welfare recipients, and crime control

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments List of Abbreviations 1 Introduction 2 Reconstructing Social Ills: From the Perils of Poverty to Welfare Dependency 3 The Criminalization of Poverty 4 A Glimpse at the Interviewees 5 Living within and without the Rules 6 Engaging with Rules and Negotiating Compliance 7 Contextualizing Criminality, Noncompliance, and Resistance 8 Cheating Ourselves Appendix A: Critical Methodology Appendix B: Interview Schedule Works Cited Index About the Author

About the Author

Kaaryn S. Gustafson is Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine.


"A fascinating account of the welfare system seen from the perspective of welfare recipients." Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College "Gustafson's book is a devastating expose on welfare reform's criminalization of poverty. It puts into sharp relief how welfare policy today reinforces the cultural biases against the poor while actually working to make the poorest of the poor even poorer. Steeped in deep understanding of the history of welfare policy, Cheating Welfare poignantly relies on first-hand accounts from clients to specify the ways that the current system works to undermine their attempts to achieve self- sufficiency. The contemporary integration of welfare policy and criminal law is put under a brilliant light for all to see. This is a most timely and critical book that should be read widely." Sanford Schram, author of Welfare Discipline: Discourse, Governance and Globalization "Cheating Welfare is simultaneously compassionate and scholarly. Gustafson provides a rare insider perspective on how citizens understand and use welfare. The stories that she relates are a testament to the resilience and strength of people caring for others as best they can in the face of great adversity. Her discussion of necessary, sometimes inadvertent, non-compliance as a form of resistance brings a more complex understanding to theories of rule abidance. This compelling book is a must-read for students, policymakers, and scholars who wish to have informed opinions based on how policies actually shape the behavior of and outcomes for low-income citizens in the context of their complex lived reality." Corey Shdaimah, author of Negotiating Justice

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