Managing security : the business of American social policy, 1910s-1960

Klein, Jennifer Lisa, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Lichtenstein, Nelson, Department of History, University of Virginia
Zunz, Olivier, Department of History, University of Virginia
Balogh, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia
Weir, Margaret, University of Virginia

The United States has a mixed welfare system in which social provision is dispensed through public and private institutions. Despite the overwhelming dependence of a majority of the population on employer-provided benefits, the development of this private system has been largely neglected. Analyzing the development of the American system of private, firm-based social welfare, this dissertation provides a study of the closely-linked politics of social provision and industrial relations from the 191Os to 1960. It covers the creation of private health insurance and pensions and how these benefits became part of the employment relation. This study demonstrates the ways in which private welfare schemes developed, expanded, and later contracted, in tandem with public ones.

The technical developments in health insurance, pensions, and Social Security arc placed in the larger context of a politics of security. This dissertation describes the contests to define the ideological and economic meaning of "security" --job security, old age security, and health security--as this concern moved to the forefront of the political agenda in the 1930s and 1940s. The New Deal gave the concept of security a communal, public cast. Private providers of benefits, while accepting security as an important value, waged a battle to influence its meaning as well, endeavoring to shift its emphasis away from the state and the political arena to private, individual economic relationships.

As part of their larger struggle to establish broad-ranging social security and job rights--legacies of the New Deal--, labor unions tried to promote health care programs that they thought would transcend the limits of firm-based collective bargaining. But economic interests and economic relationships coalesced during this period to create a distinctively American response to newly legitimized welfare needs--one that fragmented social provision, leaving health benefits uneven, incomplete, and unreliable for many Americans.

"Managing Security'' shows that the private social security system is just as much a legacy of the New Deal and the Fair Deal as federal Social Security. This study moves beyond the traditional assumptions about post-New Deal labor policy and social provision by demonstrating the extent to which collective bargaining itself was part of an on-going story of the development of private benefits.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: