Geographic dimensions of United States social policy

Geographic dimensions of United States social policy

Book reviews References ARK., A., ED. (1983). The Elections in Tel Aviv: Ramot. ARLAN, A. ANDSHAMIR,M., EDS (1986). The Elections in Isra...

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References ARK., A., ED. (1983). The Elections in Tel Aviv: Ramot. ARLAN, A. ANDSHAMIR,M., EDS (1986). The Elections in Israe-1984. New Jersey: Transaction GONEN,A. (1983). A geographical analysis of electoral competition in Jewish towns tn Israel. State, Government and International Relations 25, 35-47. (In Hebrew). Gwt-s, Y. kvo EINI,Y. (1985). Regional representation in the Knesset under a system of proportional elections Town and Region 5-21. (In Hebrew). DEGANI,A. (1977). A dynamic model for the division of the country into constituencies. Town and Region 45-59. (In Hebrew). NEU%UN,D. (1990). Voting patterns and the religious parties in Israel. Contemporaq~ .&uvy 10(2), 65-80. SHILHAV,Y. (1986). Spatial strategies of the ‘Haredi’ population in Jerusalem. Socio-Economic Planning Science 18(b), 411-418. WATERMAN, S. (1977). The problem of dividing the country into constituencies Town urzd Region 31-39. (In Hebrew).

Geographic Dimensions of United States Social Policy Janet Kodras and John Paul Jones (eds), Edward Arnold, London, 1990. This book is triply welcome-not only because it analyzes critical geographic issues and because it focusses on how state policies on social issues are expressed in real places, but also because the contributions are not exhortations about or alarming descriptions of social problems, but well-defined pieces of analysis. (And, at the risk of sounding plaintive or chauvinistic, it is good to see several natives addressing issues that in geography seem dominated by ‘outsiders’.] Some may be disappointed the book is not a comprehensive, text treatment of American social issues and policies; such is needed, but so are real demonstrations of geographic research competence. The risks of a collection of contributions by several authors are realized: an unevenness of style and of quality, an obvious lack of comprehensiveness of topics, and the virtual impossibility of a true coherence of purpose. For example, there is little on racial discrimination, and almost nothing on segregation, Several chapters appeared earlier in journals or other books. On the other hand, this variety avoids the conformity of ideology that diminishes much social geography.


The editors/authors, Janet Kodras and John Paul Jones, admirably argue the case for investigating the dual geographies of space and place in the understanding and implementation of public policies intended to address social issues; and they also well argue the need for geographic social science, with an involvement not pretending to be free from our personal values. The underlying reality is that the United States is a highly unequal society and that this inequality or degree of social deprivation is highly uneven spatially; but the specific contribution of these essays is to show how both federal and local state policies respond to and even aggravate or create this unevenness. The opening chapters, by the editors, are a valiant attempt at a broad explanation and introduction: for example, alternate views of the role of local states; the complex roles of space and place, and of federalism in the context of a competitive and individualistic society. For example, busing for school integration is used to illustrate how local states’ policies effectively undermine federal court principles. The power of the chapters is diminished a little by some obtuse terminology, and like so much social geography, by a too-simple economics-for example, the odd idea that inequality is in some way a result of market failure. Competition, in a very uneven playing field, is a key to understanding inequality, but it is also a key to productivity, and less competition hardly implies greater welfare or equality. Many readers may be familiar with Johnston’s studies of the geography of federal expenditures, and how regional or place differences in attitudes toward the poor and weak profoundly affect the public response to and effectiveness of federal programs. Two chapters deal with housing: Laws and Lord on homelessness, and Halley on housing rehabilitation. Laws and Lord are careful in trying to explain the reasons for homelessness; they illustrate well the import ante of advocacy groups at all scales, in shaping policy, and nicely bring out the tension between forces for dispersion or concentration of the homeless and facilities for the homeless. In a careful case-study of Minneapolis, Whalley analyzes how housing rehabilitation is most effective in transitional (ripe for gentrification?) areas rather than either richer or blighted areas; especially in stemming contagious spread of blight. Reynolds and Shelley’s discussion of the history of common schools is perhaps the most fascinating and lively of the essays, but it is also the most ideological and least objective. They


Book reviews

trace the social and economic forces behind compulsory education, and its extension, and behind the increasingly elitist domination of education. But the tone of conspiracy in every action, of blaming the system, even when it tried to improve chances for the less well-off, is wearying. While they show that education is not really locally controlled, as to finances, standards and content, their own examples also show that local districts-hardly a myth-in fact greatly aggravate inequality in education. Two chapters concern health policies. Bohland, in a well-expressed essay, illustrates the very great influence of state eligibility policiesand state cultures-on the implementation of federal programs, in the example of Medicaid. It is a classic example of the ‘inverse-care law’, that areas with the greatest need are the least willing or able to take advantage of such programs. I am less sanguine about the suggested solution, a large expansion of welfare, rather than universal insurance. Cromley reviews the intriguing vicissitudes of federal policy as to HMOs. Her discussion of the great geographic variability in HMO penetration would have been helped by figures on proportions of the populations covered (if possible to get), and by analysis of the variations. Holcomb, Kodras and Brunn attempt the large task of explaining the geographic variation in women’s rights, as indicated by presence or absence of state legislation. The pattern of rights is very complex and fragmented, except for a south z~ersus rest-of-countr): dichotomy. It is likely, as they suggest, that variation in legislative structures and customs may be at the base of the difficulty in explaining the pattern, but perhaps they gave up on multivariate analysis too soon. I would ask, rhetorically, whether they really believe that the existence of an ERA amendment would make as much difference as they imply. Jones’s study of the incentive uwsus disincentive effects of varying levels of welfare (AFDC) on work or poverty among black female-headed households is easily the best chapter, from both a conceptual and analytic point of view. Yes, welfare can be a disincentive, but other forces for impoverishment are vastly stronger. Kodras concludes the examples with a look at the great geographic variation in the utilization of the food stamp program, despite fairly great national eligibilry uniformity; again, local culture markedly affects participation. She also relates the rise and fall of the program to economic restructuring and political and ideological cycles. The editors rightly conclude that social policies are inherently geographic and that social science can contribute to understanding

and improving social policies, despite the obvious frustrations and disappointments of the past. I am less sure of the authors’ analysis of economic forces, and that the future necessarily means a further dismantling of the welfare state-transformation, yes. In summary, the book is replete with information, ideas, a blend of theory and evidence, and challenges to geographers, and is a very welcome addition. Richard Merrill Dqartment of Geography University of Washington

i%e Rural State? Limits to Planning in Rural Society, Paul Cloke and Jo Little, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990, 287~~. In %e Rural State? Limits to Planning in Rural Socie&, Paul Cloke and Jo Little have embarked on a study of relatively unexplored terrain, the role of the state in the production and reproduction of rural areas. Their analysis is set within a political-economy perspective with emphasis on the structural imperatives, constraints and opportunities of the state at both the central and local levels. In examining the state-society relationship, the authors question the degree to which there can be progressive planning and policymaking at the local level given ‘. the constraints within which the planning process has to work, and the centrally derived functions which planning has to fulfil’ (p. 3). They examine the structural context of rural planning, particularly constraints evident at the subnational level, and the class-based struggles over resource allocation which foster and reproduce inequality in rural areas. In doing so, Cloke and Little have incorporated recent contributions within critical rural sociology and political geography and have widened the debate regarding structure, praxis and rural social change. They argue that traditional or positivist approaches to the study of rural planning ‘. have done little more than simply describe need, failing to relate examples of inequality to either general and specific aspects of policy or, more importantly, the whole structure and operation of the decision-making process’ (p. 25). Within the logic of traditional approaches to rural planning, when policies lead to dislocations in rural localities and to increased disparities among social classes, blame is attached to strategies of implementation, not to the structure of the decision-making and planning process itself. For Cloke and Little, planning is an activity of the state and the formulation and implementation of policies must be situated within an