A Limited Partnership: The Politics of Religion, Welfare, and Social Service.

Wineburg, Robert J. A Limited Partnership: The Politics of Religion, Welfare, and Social Service. Columbia University Press, 2000.

In the wake of the 1996 welfare reform legislation that almost mandated the involvement of religious communities in social service delivery, Robert Wineburg argues that religious communities by and large do not have the resources to perform the service delivery functions hitherto carried out by the welfare bureaucracy. Wineburg’s conclusions are based on his extensive experiences in social service delivery and his examination of the response of religious community in Greensboro, North Carolina to the Reagan era budget cuts in federally funded social welfare programs.
Part of the problem, Wineburg repeatedly asserts, is the lack of understanding on part of the policy makers as to how social welfare services are delivered at the local level. Social service systems are far more complex than policy makers are aware of and religious communities do not have the managerial and system resources to replace the existing service delivery structures. Wineburg traces the development of two distinct perspectives on social welfare. The residual perspective, espoused by the religious right and the political conservatives, holds the individual responsible for not being able to financially provide for herself; it views such incapacity as a moral deficiency. The institutional perspective takes into consideration the possibility that forces outside the control of an individual may be responsible for incapacitating the person in not being able to provide for herself and her family. Wineburg proposes a combination of both these perspectives in evolving fruitful partnerships between federal agencies and religious communities towards social service delivery. He also greatly emphasizes the need for taking local social support structures into account especially when extensive planning is required in the wake of major policy changes. The book provides several case histories to support Wineburg’s suggestions; Wineburg also proposes changes in curricula in higher education institutions to better equip its constituents preparing for a career in social service sector.