Political Scholar Frances Fox Piven to Speak at Yale

The prominent political reformer and scholar Frances Fox Piven will deliver the Hollingshead Lecture sponsored by the Yale Department of Sociology on October 27, 4 p.m., in the Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York St., Room 211.

Titled “Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America,” the lecture is free and open to the public.

A distinguished professor of political science and sociology at the City University of New York, Piven has used the study of political science to promote democratic reform, and she is equally at home in the university and the world of politics.

Her “Regulating the Poor,” co-authored with Richard Cloward, is a landmark historical and theoretical analysis of the role of welfare policy in the economic and political control of the poor and working class. She also co-authored “Poor Peoples’ Movements” (1977), analyzing the dynamics of social insurgency. Piven and Cloward’s “The New Class War” (1982, updated 1985), “The Mean Season” (1987) and “The Breaking of the American Social Compact” (1997) trace the history of the contemporary attack on social and regulatory policy. In “Why Americans Don’t Vote” (1988; updated as “Why Americans Still Don’t Vote” in 2000), they analyzed the role of electoral laws and practices in disenfranchising large numbers of working class and poor citizens.  Piven was also the editor of “Labor Parties in Postindustrial Societies” (1992).

As a political scholar and activist, she collaborated with the late welfare rights advocate George A. Wiley to develop the strategy that led to a liberalization of welfare in the 1960s. She was a founder in 1983 of Human SERVE, an organization that promoted registering citizens to vote when they apply for government aid or drivers licenses. Human SERVE’s approach was incorporated in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, popularly known as the “motor voter bill.”

Throughout her career, Piven has received honors and awards for her work, among them: an honorary doctorate from Adelphi University, the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Prize, the President’s Award of the American Public Health Association; a National Association of Secretaries of State award for  her work with voter registration reform; and the Tides Foundation Award for Excellence in Public Advocacy. She was the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the political sociology section of the American Sociological Association (ASA); she received the Mary Lepper Award from the Women’s Caucus of the ASA; and in 2000 she was given an ASA distinguished career award.

Piven has held several distinguished fellowships, professorships and lectureships both here and abroad and has had top administrative posts at the American Political Science Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. She currently chairs the board of the New Press.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345