Nathan Glazer’s Warning by Howard Husock

Husock, Howard. "Nathan Glazer's Warning." City Journal, Summer 2011.

President Obama’s revival of an ambitious social policy agenda makes this a good time to reexamine the work of one of the most brilliant critics of the first wave: Nathan Glazer, now 88, a Harvard sociologist and one of the last of the founding generation of neoconservatives (a term often applied to him, though he has never really embraced it). In his bluntly titled 1988 book, The Limits of Social Policy, Glazer examined two decades’ worth of programs and reached a sobering conclusion:

Against the view that to every problem there is a solution, I came to believe that we can have only partial and less than wholly satisfying answers to the social problems in question. Whereas the prevailing wisdom was that social policies would make steady progress in nibbling away at the agenda of problems set by the forces of industrialization and urbanization, I came to believe that although social policy had ameliorated some of the problems we had inherited, it had also given rise to other problems no less grave in their effect on human happiness.

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