Tales of Two Cities: The Administrative Facade of Social Security
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Type of WorkText
Citation of Original PublicationGibson, Ed. (2003). "Tales of Two Cities: The Administrative Facade of Social Security." Administration & Society 35 (4): 408-437
SubjectsSocial Security history; civic space; sociotechnical; Robert Ball; social insurance; hermeneutic; neutral competence
This article presents history (stories) about a political landmark—Social Security—long topical in the discourse on societal versus individual responsibility to provide for retirement and disability. These stories are necessarily abbreviated and simplified because of their subjects: buildings—the locations of the Social Security Administration and its precursors in Washington, DC, and Baltimore. The perspectives of the built environment and of sociotechnical integration provide a distinct vantage on the program's growth into our nation's insurer; on the tensions between principle and compromise, original purpose and ultimate achievement, and neutral competence and political belief; and on the evolution of intent, preserved in unwritten artifacts, into mature program principles.