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Edwin Amenta

New York University

Edwin Amenta, associate professor of sociology at New York University, will study radical movements of the 1930s, such as the Townsend Movement, which proposed cash benefits for workers willing to retire in order to open up jobs for younger workers. Amenta will develop a general framework for analyzing the impact of social movements that seek to influence government policy. Sometimes social movements succeed in their stated goals, but just as often they have consequences that were unintended, counterproductive, or solely in the interests of the movement's leaders not its members. The Townsend Plan, for example, was never enacted, but the movement may have mobilized the elderly as a political force and expedited the passing of the Social Security Act.