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Faith Based

Faith Based: Religious Neoliberalism and the Politics of Welfare in the United States

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Faith Based
    Book Description:

    Faith Based explores how the Religious Right has supported neoliberalism in the United States, bringing a particular focus to welfare-an arena where conservative Protestant politics and neoliberal economic ideas come together most clearly. Through case studies of gospel rescue missions, Habitat for Humanity, and religious charities in post-Katrina New Orleans, Jason Hackworth describes both the theory and practice of faith-based welfare, revealing fundamental tensions between the religious and economic wings of the conservative movement. Hackworth begins by tracing the fusion of evangelical religious conservatism and promarket, antigovernment activism, which resulted in what he calls "religious neoliberalism." He argues that neoliberalism-the ideological sanctification of private property, the individual, and antistatist politics-has rarely been popular enough on its own to promote wide change. Rather, neoliberals gain the most traction when they align their efforts with other discourses and ideas. The promotion of faith-based alternatives to welfare is a classic case of coalition building on the Right. Evangelicals get to provide social services in line with Biblical tenets, while opponents of big government chip away at the public safety net. Though religious neoliberalism is most closely associated with George W. Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the idea predates Bush and continues to hold sway in the Obama administration. Despite its success, however, Hackworth contends that religious neoliberalism remains an uneasy alliance-a fusion that has been tested and frayed by recent events.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4372-3
    Subjects: Population Studies, Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. INTRODUCTION A Force for Good Greater Than Government
    (pp. 1-4)

    On February 5, 2009, scarcely two weeks after his inauguration, President Barack Obama delivered a short speech announcing that he was continuing one of his predecessor’s most controversial programs, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, albeit with a slightly altered focus.¹ Given Obama’s background as a community organizer in Chicago — one that involved a great deal of work with churches (Obama 1995) — it is perhaps unsurprising that the new president decided to retain and improve the office rather than abolish it as some of his supporters had called for him to do. Much more surprising...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Faith, Welfare, and Neoliberalism
    (pp. 5-29)

    The lead-up to the event was impressive, well funded, and stoked the curiosity of those across the political spectrum. Freedom Works — the generously funded conservative advocacy group — had engineered and mobilized a year’s worth of rage against health-care reform, “big government,” and regulation. Tax Day was meant to be not only the culmination of its efforts but an opportunity to unveil its “Contract from America,” a thinly veiled takeoff of the early 1990s “Contract with America,” which was credited with returning Republicans to congressional power in 1994. The new contract, like the old one, was filled with boilerplate...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Religious Neoliberalism(s)
    (pp. 30-47)

    This chapter catalogs the sectarian ideational supports for neoliberalism in the United States during the past thirty years. My argument is that neoliberalism, as an abstract set of ideas, was rarely politically popular enough in its own right to change policies; rather, it benefited from and was legitimated by other discourses and ideas. In a sense, it needed these ideas — mostly borrowed from other corners of the American right wing — to gain political traction. In the United States, various right-wing factions forged an uneasy alliance starting in the 1960s (Sager 2006). The coalition was composed of three broad...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Compassionate Neoliberalism?
    (pp. 48-62)

    One particularly useful contribution to the literature on neoliberalism (made by geographers primarily) has been the notion that while it is valuable to understand the relatively global formations of an idea — emanating from think tanks, high-level politicians, and meta-organizations like the imf — the actual adoption and diffusion of ideas and policies are far more contingent, locally and institutionally (Brenner and Theodore 2002; Hackworth 2007). Put simply, although it is crucial and often challenging to understand the machinations of the think tanks, ideologues, and politicians who promote an idea, the actual adoption or formation of that idea is filtered...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Mainstream Jesus Economics
    (pp. 63-85)

    Identifying religious neoliberalism in the words of Acton Institute ideologues or mainstream evangelicals may be an important step in understanding its ideational nuances, but it is hardly proof that anything wider has evolved to influence public policy or the ethos about welfare in general. For that, a consideration of secular and mainstream media is needed. The challenge with such a focus, of course, is that one is unlikely to find broad, programmatic texts outlining how a merger of religion and neoliberalism would look — even if that were something editors would approve. Religious neoliberalism, if it exists at all in...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Practicing Religious Neoliberalism
    (pp. 86-113)

    “President George W. Bush has emphasized the importance of faith-based organizations,” writes Marvin Olasky in his foreword to Enacted Christianity, “the best of which help to change lives, the worst of which merely enable the destitute to remain in misery. Tens of thousands of self-sacrificing men and women are at work in those rescue missions across the country that are among the best” (2000, 9). What exactly makes one faith-based organization an enabler of destitution and another a life changer? Clearly, Marvin Olasky, author of the Bush administration’s language of “compassionate conservatism” and longtime political insider for the faith-based social-services...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Religious Neoliberalism as Default
    (pp. 114-130)

    It has been more than five years since Hurricane Katrina demolished much of the physical and social infrastructure of New Orleans, but it remains for some a symbolic epicenter of religious neoliberalism, as the federal government famously turned to religious entities — places of worship and religious organizations — to deal with the human devastation wrought by the storm. The reliance on these entities was passive at first (the federal government was simply not doing what it had done in the past, so such groups picked up the slack), then systematic — once pressured into acting, the federal government positioned...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN End Times for Religious Neoliberalism?
    (pp. 131-142)

    If this book had been written seven or eight years ago, it would have been tempting to conclude with some kind of statement about the inexorable march of religious neoliberalism in the United States — on how it would strengthen in the coming years and eventually dominate thinking on both religion and economy. The White House was occupied at the time by a self-professed conservative evangelical who seemed to embody the ideals of religious neoliberalism as well as anyone in recent memory. The Faith-Based Initiative was still active — experiencing some growing pains, but active — and working to build...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 143-148)
    (pp. 149-164)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 165-172)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 173-173)