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Faith Based

Religious Neoliberalism and the Politics of Welfare in the United States

Jason Hackworth

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation

Cover / Title Page, Copyright

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p. v

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pp. vii-xiii

I sometimes pine to be a historian. My job would then consist of excavating fragments of the past and debating with my colleagues about whose interpretation or archival source is correct. The historical event in question wouldn’t change, but the light we might...

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Introduction: A Force for Good Greater Than Government

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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...

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1. Faith, Welfare, and Neoliberalism

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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...

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2. Religious Neoliberalism(s)

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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...

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3. Compassionate Neoliberalism?

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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...

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4. Mainstream Jesus Economics

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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...

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5. Practicing Religious Neoliberalism

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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...

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6. Religious Neoliberalism as Default

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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...

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7. End Times for Religious Neoliberalism?

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pp. 131-141

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...


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pp. 143-148


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pp. 149-163


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pp. 165-172

E-ISBN-13: 9780820343723
E-ISBN-10: 082034303X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820343037
Print-ISBN-10: 082034303X

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 1 b&w photo, 16 tables
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation
Series Editor Byline: Nik Heynen, Deborah Cowen, and Melissa W. Wright, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794434673
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Faith Based

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Subject Headings

  • Neoliberalism -- United States -- History.
  • Religious right -- United States -- History.
  • Conservatism -- United States -- History.
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