The American welfare state is coming apart. In The Rhetoric of Reaction, Albert 0. Hirschman explained how conservatives had used three themes to counter liberal expansion of social and economic rights: perversity, futility, and jeopardy. This essay expands Hirschman's formulation retrospectively by identifying the liberal antecedents---adequacy, equality, and regulation-that prompted the recent conservative assault on the American welfare state. Further, the author presents three themes to thwart the conservative critique of welfare-mobility, empowerment, and restructuring. As illustrative of "proactive rhetoric", these themes are proposed to guide future social policy in the United States.

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