Poverty in America, 50 years after Harrington book

Robert Kuttner and Bob Herbert will speak at Heller School symposium

American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner, left, and former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert

American Prospect founder and editor Robert Kuttner and former New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert will assess the state of poverty in the United States at a Brandeis symposium on Thursday marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of  Michael Harrington's “The Other America.”

The book challenged the prevailing view, expounded by John Kenneth Galbraith and others in the early 1960s, that widespread poverty had been eliminated in the United States.  In “The Other America,” Harrington, one of an influential group of liberal reformers associated with The Catholic Worker newspaper, asserted that 25 percent of the nation was living in poverty.

The book had an impact on the administration of President John F. Kennedy and helped inform President Lyndon B. Johnson’s subsequent War on Poverty. Many observers trace Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps and expanded social security benefits to Harrington’s ideas.

“(Re)Discovering Harrington’s ‘The Other America’: A Symposium on Poverty Since the Great Society” will bring together scholars, students and community activists to discuss an issue that has largely been ignored during the presidential campaign.The symposium, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the Hassenfeld Conference Center. The schedule opens with lunch at noon and concludes with a reception at 5 p.m.

“The anniversary of the publication of Michael’s Harrington book gives us a unique opportunity to examine the politics and impacts of poverty in America and the challenges in fighting the so-called war on poverty,” says Brandeis Professor Janet Boguslaw, program director of the master of public policy program’s poverty alleviation concentration and associate director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy. “We look forward to delving into many of the components that contribute to poverty today and to discussing solutions and strategies for reducing poverty in the United States.”

Kuttner will open the program with the luncheon keynote, “Reflecting on the Politics of Poverty in the 50 years since ‘The Other America.’”

Following lunch, breakout sessions led jointly by Brandeis faculty and community activists will examine four topic areas: labor and employment, housing and foreclosure, the safety net and beyond, and student debt and college completion.

The ensuing panel discussion will feature Brandeis faculty and students discussing the racial wealth gap, children in poverty, women and poverty, and undocumented youth.

Bob Herbert will close the program with the plenary keynote, “Moving Beyond ‘The Other America.’ ”

“This will be an important gathering of researchers, students, community organizations and activists who care about raising awareness and changing conditions to improve the lives of people living in poverty,” says David Duhalde-Wine, MPP/MBA ’14, one of the event organizers. “It is also a day to celebrate that Michael Harrington could make such a difference in people’s lives -- then and now.”

The conference is sponsored by the MPP Poverty Alleviation Program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice.

For more information, including the complete schedule, visit the Heller School. To RSVP send an email.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage