Scholarship on the U.S. public-private welfare state has pointed to the ways in which indirect, market-based channels of social policy provision often obscure the role of the government from many citizens who use these programs. This article argues that the same mechanisms that often depoliticize public-private policies for citizens who already benefit from them may actually politicize them for citizens who are unable to access those benefits. Focusing on the responses of black civil rights and veterans advocacy groups to the shortcomings of the Federal Housing Administration and the early GI Bill, it shows that public-private policies can draw advocacy groups, providers, and the state into conflicts over the terms of access. Despite facing very different challenges and bringing very different political capacities to bear, these two types of groups followed precisely the same processes of political mobilization and contestation in each case: First, they aggregated individual grievances into broader collective problems. Then, they traced those problems not to impersonal market mechanisms but to government policies and state authority. Finally, they pushed for reform across multiple venues to expand access for their members. By explicating these recurrent political dynamics, this article contributes to our understanding of policy feedback in the public-private welfare state and highlights the role of advocacy groups in helping to reshape the state's capacity to govern in a policy arena that is often characterized as dominated by third-party providers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science