by Gretchen Purser and Brian Hennigan
The passage of welfare reform in 1996 reshaped the principles and practices of poverty management in the U.S. Most notably, it brought about an end to welfare as an entitlement and imposed rigid time limits, work requirements, and a programmatic focus on “job-readiness.”
Less well known is the fact that welfare reform also decentralized and privatized welfare delivery, opening the door for faith-based organizations to play a more formal and zealous role in the delivery of social services as well as the moral tutelage of the poor.
This two-fisted overhaul of social policy was not a happenstance conjuncture. Rather, it reflects the ascendance of what Jason Hackworth, in his 2012 book Faith-Based, calls religious neoliberalism: the “ideological fusion” between conservative evangelicals and neoliberal politicians that calls for the shrinking and privatization of the welfare state while promoting the faith-based sector as its ideal replacement.