The American welfare state has been contained by several developments that have influenced social policy: the traditionalist movement, neoliberal ideology, and the budget deficit. These are evident in the minimal welfare reform of the Family Support Act of 1988. A new paradigm for organizing thinking about American social welfare is proposed around themes that have become central to discussions of social policy: productivity, reciprocity, community, and privatization. In order to become a viable institution again, social welfare policy should emphasize specific themes: voluntarization, access to services, social choice, social control, social obligation, transitional benefits, community enterprise, and national service.

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