The Politics of Human Services: Radical Alternatives to the Welfare State


272 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-920057-42-X





Reviewed by Raj S. Gandhi

Raj S. Gandhi is a professor of sociology at the University of Calgary.


The call for qualitative social change in North American society was a dominant theme in the writings of such radical social scientists as C. Wright Mills, Herbert Marcuse, and Paul Goodman during the sixties. It became somewhat subdued at the end of the Vietnam War, but it can never be set aside as there are real differences between unfettered capitalism and capitalism buffered by welfare state measures. The only radical alternative is to reject both right-wing policies and the welfare state as bankrupt in terms of their limitations and degradations of human dignity and potential. This is the perspective developed by Steven Wineman in Chapter Two, which also gives an excellent critique of both conservative and liberal policies in order to set the stage for radical alternative. The strategic Chapter Three presents an alternative program based on radical decentralization. But the constituencies for the new radical movement are major categories of oppression: sex, age, race, and class (discussed in Chapter Four). They are critically analyzed by looking at the divisions among those oppressed groups (Chapter Five); and finally, Chapter Six examines the process of change by which radical decentralization would be achieved and its unintended consequences.

The point of departure for the book is Ivan Illich’s critique of centralized power and bureaucratic problem-solving. One rarely comes across a book so packed with thorough intellectualism and radicalism. This book is indispensable for all social scientists, as it cuts across the traditional boundaries, raises their consciousness, and gives a call for action.


Wineman, Steven, “The Politics of Human Services: Radical Alternatives to the Welfare State,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 16, 2024,