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By not making a more radical case for relief, proponents of the New Deal helped create the weak, uniquely American welfare state we have today—one torn between the desire to come to the aid of those suffering and the deeply rooted suspicion that those in need are responsible for their own deprivation.

Contrary to conventional thought, the history of federal disaster relief is one of remarkable consistency, despite significant political and ideological change.

Studying Franklin Delano Roosevelt's political rhetoric and his use of the arts during the New Deal, Dauber shows that the construction of public sympathy is a complicated task, involving fact-based reasoning, but also involving the emotions and the imagination.

Roosevelt was not just a canny social planner, he was also a genius of the heart.

A one-time fierce critic of President Obama, New Jersey's governor Chris Christie greeted the president warmly and toured devastated regions with him. For students of historical sociology, it is a lesson in how to build a multifaceted case for a simple, but wide-reaching, argument, treating several types of historical materials in several important institutional settings. Yet in Dauber’s The Sympathetic State, we are treated to such an innovative book. The author's analysis to the quasi-judicial approach that Congress has brought to the task of evaluating relief claims is fascinating and largely persuasive.”“In her fascinating analysis, Dauber .

And in November, Christie said New Jersey would seek .4 billion in federal disaster aid.

Those digs have exposed an abundance of ancient rocks across a land normally choked by jungle.

Jaramillo, a staff geologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, is leading a team of about 40 scientists who are taking advantage of this brief opportunity to study the rocks before they again surrender to plants or water.

In her new book, The Sympathetic State, Michele Landis Dauber does not discuss these events directly, but her research allows us to see some surprising connections.”"In the wake of the October storm, no one was in the mood to talk about privatization or 'austerity' in the context of disaster relief. welfare state, it will be an indispensable and provocative resource. She further shows us that our paradoxical and often-unequal welfare state is rooted in a contradictory tradition that spans judicial, legislative, and even popular consciousness.” “Given the breadth of research on the origins of the American welfare state, it can mark a significant scholarly achievement to uncover anything new on the topic—let alone to identify missing pieces that challenge conventional understandings. Where another historian surveying the history of American disaster relief might instinctively look for turning points and crystallizing moments, Dauber, a law professor, looks for persistent patterns, exploring the fundamental character of the American political regime. trace[s] the way disasters are defined initially as deriving from natural causes outside the control of human beings, such as fires, floods, hurricanes, and so on, and then she brilliantly documents how welfare advocates succeeded in expanding that definition to include economic emergencies for which there appears to be no ‘natural’ cause.

Making this connection required framing the Great Depression as a disaster afflicting citizens though no fault of their own.

Dauber argues that the disaster paradigm, though successful in defending the New Deal, would ultimately come back to haunt advocates for social welfare.

In The Sympathetic State, Stanford University professor Michele Landis Dauber looks at the stories Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his allies told in order to sell the New Deal—to the public, sure, but also to a harsher audience, the Supreme Court, which would end up deciding its fate." "We learn in The Sympathetic State that Congress dispensed federal funds in more than one hundred resolutions to help citizens recover from disaster or other circumstances beyond their control, from the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 to the 1827 Alexandria Fire. It will enhance the perspectives for everyone seeking to explain American political development, constitutional law, the New Deal, and welfare provision as a continuing though not last step in this endeavor.” American Historical Association: AHA-Littleton-Griswold Prize Won APSA: APSA-J.

With these precedents in mind, Roosevelt and others argued that the Depression was a “disaster” and that relief was constitutional and the morally right thing to do. There is much to admire about The Sympathetic State. David Greenstone Book Award Won American Sociological Association: ASA Sociology of Law Section Award Won Law and Society Association: James Willard Hurst Prize in American Legal History Honorable Mention American Society for Legal History: John Phillip Reid Book Prize Won View Recent Awards page for more award winning books.

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