Richard A. Cloward

From KeyWiki
(Redirected from Richard Cloward)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Richard Cloward

Template:TOCnestleft Richard A. Cloward was a sociologist and socialist. He was the author with his wife Frances Fox Piven of the Cloward-Piven Strategy for revolutionary social change. The strategy was designed to so over-burden the state with obligations to welfare recipients that revolutionary crisis and change would become inevitable. Later he applied similar priciples to voter registration-working to increase the proportion of low income voters, in order to change social structures.

He was undoubtedly one of the most influential figures on the U.S. and international left in the 20th century.

The husband and wife team of Cloward and Piven were described as "Marxist critics" by Chicago Democratic Socialists of America activist Jim Williams[1].

Cloward died in his Manhattan home in August 2001 age 74.

He was survived by his wife Frances Fox Piven, a daughter, Leslie Diamond and his sons Kevin Cloward and Keith Cloward.

Early life/career

Cloward was born on Christmas Day, 1926, in Rochester, NY. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester in 1949, before getting a master's in social work from the Columbia University School of Social Work in 1950 and a doctorate in sociology from Columbia in 1958.

He was an ensign in the U.S. Navy in 1944-46 and a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1951-1954. After serving as a group work supervisor in Pittsburgh and a social worker in an army prison in New Cumberland, PA, Cloward became an assistant professor at Columbia's School of Social Work in 1954. He also had visiting posts at the Hebrew University, the University of Amsterdam, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Arizona State University[2].

Early activism

Richard Cloward held a PhD in sociology and was a former student of Robert Merton.

He co-authored nine books, including "Delinquency and Opportunity" (1960), written with Lloyd Ohlin and focusing on problems related to gangs. This book received the Dennis Carroll Award and influenced the formation of Mobilization for Youth (MFY), which Cloward helped found in 1961. MFY became the programmatic model for the federal War on Poverty and pioneered community action programs and the anti-poverty legal services.

REP sponsor

In 1966 Philip Berrigan was a listed sponsor of the Ann Arbor Michigan, based Radical Education Project, which described itself as "an independent education. research and publication program, initiated by Students for a Democratic Society, devoted to the cause of democratic radicalism and aspiring to the creation of a new left in America.[3]

Socialist Scholars Conference 1966

The Socialist Scholars Conference 1966, held September 9-11, at the Hotel Commodore, New York, included panels such as:[4]

Poverty and Powerlessness Organizing the Poor: Can it Be Done?


Beginnings of the "welfare movement"

Written with associate sociologist Frances Piven of Columbia, Dr. Cloward's paper for the Socialist Scholars opened with a call for a systematic strategy of "irregular and disruptive tactics" among the poor, urging them to overburden city and state governments with their "demand,," as a means of forcing these governments to turn to the federal government for more and more funds.

Prof. Cloward said, "We need, to devote more attention to disrupting corporate power." He described the poor as mere "supplicants" in the welfare state, and said they have most to gain "from a major upheaval in our society." He said our welfare system is "lawless" and violates human and civil rights. He called for welfare recipients' forcing city welfare departments to impose the labor union "check-off system" for welfare clients, by withholding 50 cents to a dollar for each client as dues to a fund for unionization of welfare clients to impose their demands for special benefits.

Prof. Cloward explained that each welfare client in New York City is entitled under existing law to special benefits for clothing, blankets, etc. He said that in 1965 city special benefits welfare payments amounted to "about $40 per client" and he called for each welfare client to demand $100 to $1,000 in such benefits.

He said there are now 550,00 welfare clients in the city, but that by 1967 there probably will be 60,000 The poor, said Dr. Cloward, could become a stake and powerful organization "in small portions of power" within the context "of a broader point."

Dr. Cloward said he had consulted with legal experts and "we estimate that $200 million in special grants" could be obtained in New York City alone: Dr. Cloward said that 'in Cleveland, on June 20, 1966, 30 to 35 welfare recipients were joined by others in a demonstration that included the Hough area.

In early August, he said, he himself had taken part in "a national conference to organize the welfare recipients movement,:' Dr. Cloward said he personally had taken part in Wednesday night meetings with welfare clients "week after week, month after month," and that as a result, "Next Monday there will be a demonstration of welfare recipients at City Hall"

Dr. Cloward read his paper to the Socialist Scholars Conference in the East Ballroom of the Hotel Commodore on Saturday afternoon, September 10. On Monday night, September 12, CBS and NBC TV newscasts showed the demonstration of screaming welfare recipients that took place right on Cloward schedule. They shouted demands for more "special benefits," though the present city general welfare budget (including hospital services, etc.) is almost a billion dollars annually, the Mayor says the city is "broke," and New Yorkers were hit this year with a city income tax in addition to state and federal taxes to pay for it all.

Prof. Cloward was right about the success of his Wednesday night meetings. Evidently his strategy of "disruptive tactics" will require costly police reinforcements at city welfare departments throughout our nation.

The prospects delighted Prof. William Ryan, formerly of Harvard now of Yale, who described himself to the audience as "a radical without portfolio." He said, "I have been enchanted with the Cloward strategy of blowing a fuse in the welfare agencies, housing developments, and among unmarried mothers. I wonder what would happen if there was a really systematic overload."

When a member of the audience went to the floor microphone during the question period to ask whether Dr. Cloward's strategy is a substitute for "Socialist organization of the proletariat, the industrial factory workers " Dr. Frances Piven of Columbia replied from the dais: "I really only want to make one point-the disruption of the system. Welfare rolls will begin to go up; welfare payments will begin to go up-the impact will be very, very sharp. The mounting welfare budget will increase taxes, force cities to turn to the federal government. We have to help people to make claims; for this they will organize and act."[5]

Social change through welfare crisis


Cloward pioneered the deliberate attempt to of expand welfare rolls to push state services to the point of collapse. His first vehicle for such tactics was the National Welfare Rights Organization, an ancestor of today's ACORN and similar organizations.[6]

In 1966, Richard helped found the National Welfare Rights Organization, the protest movement of poor women. Its goal of winning federalization of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) by building the local welfare rolls to create fiscal and political crisis very nearly succeeded. Instead, Congress granted fiscal relief to states and localities through a new federal relief program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI was one of the most important federal social policy innovations in the post-World War II period.

In 1971, Cloward, along with his wife and collaborator, Dr. Frances Fox Piven, co-authored "Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare".

"This is a landmark critique of government’s use of public welfare to suppress social disorder among the poor and to reinforce the low wage work market".

Among their other landmark works, Cloward and Piven wrote "The Politics of Turmoil" (1974), Poor People’s Movements" (1977), "The New Class War" (1982), "Why American’s Don’t Vote", (1988) and "The Breaking of the American Social Compact" (1997).

Social change through expanded voter rolls

In 1982, Cloward and Piven founded the Human SERVE (Human Service Employees Registration and Voter Education Campaign, which promoted the idea that people should be registered to vote when they apply for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment benefits and driver’s licenses.

A decade later, Human Serve’s program was incorporated in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Popularly known as the “motor voter” bill, it became law in 1993.

"This legislation represents an historic advance in the struggle to win full enfranchisement for low-income people and people of color".

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had stopped government from preventing people from registering to vote. The 1993 act went further by embodying the principle that government has an affirmative obligation to register the eligible electorate.

Motor Voter Signing Ceremony


Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven at 1993 Motor Voter Signing Ceremony with Bill Clinton.

DSA member

Richard Cloward was named as a member of Democratic Socialists of America, in Democratic Left, January/February 1991 issue, page 16.

"Cultural Politics and Social Movements"

1140 reg.gif

In 1995 Marcy Darnovsky, Barbara Epstein and Richard Flacks edited the book "Cultural Politics and Social Movements";

Bridging the worlds of activism and academia-social movement theory informed with the real experiences of activists-this volume of accessible essays brings together insights from European New Social Movement theorists, U.S. scholars of social movements, and activists involved in social movements from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Contributors included : Alice Echols, Barbara Epstein, Richard Cloward, Marcy Darnovsky, Jeffrey Escoffier, Ilene Rose Feinman, Richard Flacks, Cynthia Hamilton, Allen Hunter, L. A. Kauffman, Rebecca E. Klatch, Margit Mayer, Alberto Melucci, Bronislaw Misztal, Osha Neumann, Frances Fox Piven, Craig Reinarman, Roland Roth, Arlene Stein, Mindy Spatt, Andrew Szasz, Noel Sturgeon and Howard Winant.[7]

Campaign for America's Future

In 1996 Richard Cloward, Columbia University was one of the original 130 founders of Campaign for America's Future.[8]

Socialist Memorial

On September 20, 2001 500 people gathered[9] at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City to celebrate Cloward’s Life and Work. Speakers included Frances Fox Piven, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Gus Newport-(all members of Democratic Socialists of America), activists Howard Zinn, June Jordan, Joel Rogers and Tim Sampson plus long time voter registration advocate, Demos president, Miles Rapoport.


Template:Reflist Template:Campaign for America's Future co-founders

  1. New Ground 40 May - June, 1995
  3. Bill Buckley's Combat May 15, 1968
  4. Second Annual Socialist Scholars Conference program.
  5. The Second Annual Conference Of Socialist Scholars, Alice Widener USA Today, September 16, 1966 page 28 and 29
  7. Temple University website: Cultural Politics and Social Movements (accessed on Jan. 19, 2010)
  8. CAF Co-Founders