Faith Based
Religious Neoliberalism and the Politics of Welfare in the United States

Jason Hackworth

A critical examination of faith-based organizations as a replacement for the welfare state


"Hackworth's study begins to remedy the absence of attention to religion within the critical scholarship on neoliberalism, and it will push this literature in a new and much needed direction. Faith Based is very accessible and interesting, and it moves along nicely. It's a great book."
—Jason Dittmer, author of Popular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity

"Faith Based presents a penetrating analysis of the 'fusion project' forged between the Religious Right and the true believers of free-market economics. Focusing on the contested field of social welfare policy, Hackworth takes us inside this sometimes unhappy but nevertheless consequential marriage, where rupture always seems more likely than rapture."
—Jamie Peck, author of Constructions of Neoliberal Reason

More / Hide


Faith Based explores how the Religious Right has supported neoliberalism in the United States, bringing a particular focus to welfare—an arena where conservative Protestant politics and neoliberal economic ideas come together most clearly. Through case studies of gospel rescue missions, Habitat for Humanity, and religious charities in post-Katrina New Orleans, Jason Hackworth describes both the theory and practice of faith-based welfare, revealing fundamental tensions between the religious and economic wings of the conservative movement.

Hackworth begins by tracing the fusion of evangelical religious conservatism and promarket, antigovernment activism, which resulted in what he calls "religious neoliberalism." He argues that neoliberalism—the ideological sanctification of private property, the individual, and antistatist politics—has rarely been popular enough on its own to promote wide change. Rather, neoliberals gain the most traction when they align their efforts with other discourses and ideas. The promotion of faith-based alternatives to welfare is a classic case of coalition building on the Right. Evangelicals get to provide social services in line with Biblical tenets, while opponents of big government chip away at the public safety net.

Though religious neoliberalism is most closely associated with George W. Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the idea predates Bush and continues to hold sway in the Obama administration. Despite its success, however, Hackworth contends that religious neoliberalism remains an uneasy alliance—a fusion that has been tested and frayed by recent events.

Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation

Page count: 184 pp.
1 b&w photo, 16 tables
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $59.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

List price: $22.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

List price: $22.95
Check ebook availability

Jason Hackworth is an associate professor in the Department of Planning and Geography at the University of Toronto. He is author of The Neoliberal City: Governance, Ideology, and Development in American Urbanism, which was nominated for the Robert Park Book Award.