Fighting Poverty with Virtue

Fighting Poverty with Virtue

Moral Reform and America's Urban Poor, 1825-2000
Joel Schwartz
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/22/2000
ISBN: 978-0-253-10897-5
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Fighting Poverty with Virtue
Moral Reform and America’s Urban Poor, 1825–2000
Joel Schwartz

The emergence, decline, and resurgence of moral reform in addressing urban poverty in the
United States.

This book is both a historical and a contemporary study of attempts to promote the self-reliance and prosperity of America’s urban poor by encouraging the practice of familiar virtues such as diligence, sobriety, thrift, and familial responsibility. In Part One Joel Schwartz considers the efforts of four 19th-century moral reformers who expounded this strategy—Joseph Tuckerman, Robert M. Hartley, Charles Loring Brace, and Josephine Shaw Lowell. Schwartz examines what they did (and why they did it), the obstacles they faced, their successes and failures in confronting them. Part Two describes the 20th-century critique of moral reform. Drawing from the work of figures such as Jane Addams, Walter Rauschenbusch, and Frances Fox Piven, Schwartz traces the rise of a belief that the virtues promoted by the moral reformers were individualistic and "bourgeois," hence inapplicable to the lives of the poor. Part Three assesses African Americans’ historical commitment to the virtues of the moral reformers, which are apparent in the writings of figures as divergent as Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Dubois, and Malcolm X. Moving to the present, the author discusses the renewed commitment to a self-help strategy for fighting poverty evident in the widespread interest in the work of faith-based charities and in recent shifts in public policy. He concludes by assessing the reasons to be hopeful, but also to be skeptical, of the success of that strategy.

Joel Schwartz is a program officer in the Division of Research Programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities and a contributing editor of Philanthropy. In addition to teaching political science at the universities of Michigan, Toronto, and Virginia, he has served as executive editor of The Public Intere

Author Bio

JOEL SCHWARTZ has published widely in political philosophy and public policy. He has taught political science at the University of Michigan, the University of Toronto, and the University of Virginia; served as executive editor of The Public Interest; and conducted research at the Statistical Assessment Service and the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He is currently a contributing editor of Philanthropy.


“". . . a deft synthesis . . . . Schwartz places the contemporary conservatives in historical context (his major original contribution). . . . [He] has written an outstanding, well-balanced statement of a popular perspective." —Perspectives on Politics, American Political Science Association " . . . a welcome signpost along this long road to renewal." — Religion & Liberty "In Fighting Poverty with Virtue, Joel Schwartz fights ignorance with history, ideology with thoughtfulness, and simple-mindedness with nuance and complexity. This is an interesting, enlightening, and altogether admirable book." —William Kristol, Editor and Publisher, The Weekly Standard "An important book. Joel Schwartz has managed for the first time to chronicle America's struggle against poverty with a focus on its moral assumptions rather than its economics. . . . It is a fascinating story and wonderfully written." —Lawrence M. Mead, Professor of Politics, New York University, and author of The New Politics of Poverty A study of the efforts to promote self-reliance in America's urban poor—why that idea fell out of favor in the 20th century and how and why it has returned today.”

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: What Moral Reform Is, and Why It’s Important

Part One: Moral Reform in the Past

Chapter One: Principles and Intentions: Why Moral Reform was Undertaken
Chapter Two: The Virtues Taught by the Moral Reformers
A. Diligence and its Difficulties
B. Sobriety and Success
C. Salvation through Saving?
D. Family Values: More than Just a Footnote
E. Knowledge as Virtue: Why Moral Reform Could be Implemented
Chapter Three: Why Moral Reform was Hard to Achieve

Part Two: The Critique and Rejection of Moral Reform

Chapter Four: The Decline of Laissez-Faire and the Critique of Moral Reform
A. Introduction
B. Jane Addams: The Compassionate Critique of the Industrial Virtues
C. Walter Rauschenbusch: The Christian Critique of Prudence
Chapter Five: The Rejection of Moral Reform
Chapter Six: African-Americans, Irish-Americans, and Moral Reform: Historical Considerations
Chapter Seven: The Contemporary Climate for Moral Reform
Chapter Eight: The Contemporary Practice of Moral Reform Urban Ministries, Public Policy, and the Promotion of Virtue

Biographical Appendix