Frances Fox Piven
Frances Fox Piven
"Widely recognized as one of America's most thoughtful and provocative commentators on America's social welfare system, Frances Fox Piven, political scientist, activist, and educator, was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1932. She came to the U.S. in 1933 and was naturalized in 1953, the same year she received her B.A. in City Planning from the University of Chicago. She also received her M.A. (1956) and Ph.D. (1962) from the University of Chicago. While married to Herman Piven, she had a daughter, Sarah. After a brief stint in New York as a city planner, she became a research associate at one of the country's first anti-poverty agencies, Mobilization for Youth -- a comprehensive, community-based service organization on New York City's Lower East Side. At its height the organization coordinated more than fifty experimental programs designed to reduce poverty and crime. A 1965 paper entitled "Mobilizing the Poor: How It Can Be Done," launched Piven and her co-author, Columbia University professor Richard Cloward, into an ongoing national conversation on the welfare state. Piven and Cloward's collaborative work came to influence both careers, and the two eventually married. Their early work together provided a theoretical base for the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), the first in a long line of grass-roots organizations in which Piven acted as founder, advisor, and/or planner. Piven taught in the Columbia University School of Social Work from 1966 to 1972. From 1972 to 1982 she was a professor of political science at Boston University. In 1982 she joined the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She has co-authored with Richard Cloward Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (1971); The Politics of Turmoil: Essays on Poverty, Race and the Urban Crisis (1974); Poor People's Movements (1977); The New Class War (1982); The Mean Season (1987); Why Americans Don't Vote (1988); and The Breaking of the American Social Compact (1997), as well as dozens of articles, both with Cloward and independently, in scholarly and popular publications.
"Piven is known equally for her contributions to social theory and for her social activism. Over the course of her career, she has served on the boards of the ACLU and the Democratic Socialists of America, and has also held offices in several professional associations, including the American Political Science Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. In the 1960s, Piven worked with welfare-rights groups to expand benefits; in the eighties and nineties she campaigned relentlessly against welfare cutbacks. A veteran of the war on poverty and subsequent welfare-rights protests both in New York City and on the national stage, she has been instrumental in formulating the theoretical underpinnings of those movements. In Regulating the Poor , Piven and Cloward argued that any advances the poor have made throughout history were directly proportional to their ability to disrupt institutions that depend upon their cooperation. This academic commentary proved useful to George Wiley and the NWRO as well as a great many other community organizers and urban theorists. Since 1994, Piven has led academic and activist opposition to the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996," (known as the Personal Responsibility Act), appearing in numerous public forums, from television's Firing Line to the U.S. Senate, to discuss the history of welfare and the potential impact of welfare reform initiatives." 
- Director, Left Forum 
- Director, The New Press 
- Founder or Advisor, Campaign for America's Future
- Executive Committee, Socíologos Sin Fronteras 
- Editorial Board, New Political Science 
- Editorial Advisory Group, Social Policy 
- Sponsor, New Politics 
- Board of Associate and Advisory Editors, International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest 
- Former Advisory Board member, Democratiya
Resources and articles
Related Sourcewatch articles
- Stephen Pimpare - PhD student
- Frances Fox Piven, Sophia Smith Collection Smith College, accessed December 20, 2007.
- Directors, Left Forum, accessed July 24, 2008.
- Directors, The New Press, accessed December 20, 2007.
- Organization and Awards, Socíologos Sin Fronteras, accessed April 17, 2008.
- Editorial Board, New Political Science, accessed May 28, 2008.
- About, Social Policy, accessed September 29, 2009.
- About, New Politics, accessed July 24, 2009.
- Board of Associate and Advisory Editors, International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, accessed September 10, 2009.