The Constraint of Race: The Legacies of White Skin Privilege in America. By Linda Faye Williams. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003. 440p. $35.00 cloth, $27.95 paper.
Linda Faye Williams's book seeks to identify “how, when and why American social policy became fused with the politics of race” and what that has meant for the development and evolution of the welfare state in the United States. The author's central argument is that the welfare state was “grafted onto preexisting conditions of race relations,” and the long-term consequence of this grafting is that even today, the organization of social policy in the United States continues to reproduce advantages for whites and disadvantages for many people of color. Further, as social welfare policy institutionalizes white advantage, this in turn tends to block movement in the direction of more universalistic social policy (p. 14). Williams supports this contention by revisiting the political history of social welfare policy, from just after the Civil War up to the Clinton administration's efforts at welfare “reform” in 1996.