Frances Fox Piven holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has been on the Graduate Center faculty since 1982. An expert in the development of the welfare state, political movements, urban politics, voting, and electoral politics, she has been politically engaged with improving the lives of America’s poor since the 1960s. She has taught at several universities in the United States and Europe and among her many books are the bestselling Poor People’s Movements (1977), one of four books she coauthored with Richard A. Cloward; Mean Season: The Attack on the Welfare State (1987); Why Americans Don’t Vote (1989); Why Americans Still Don’t Vote: And Why Politicians Want It That Way (2000); Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America (2008), with Joshua Cohen; and The Lean Years (2010) and The Turbulent Years (2010), both with Irving Bernstein.
In 2011, in the face of vicious life-threatening attacks and a hate campaign spearheaded by Glenn Beck and others on the right, the New Press published Piven’s Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate, which clarified the trajectory of her thinking over fifty years and her lifelong commitment to political democracy, reasoned debate, and social justice. Piven has also been concerned with the impact of globalization on Left political parties, and in 1992 edited Labor Parties in Postindustrial Societies, a collection of essays on the subject.
A recipient of numerous academic and public awards for her work, she was president of the American Sociological Association in 2007, has served on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Democratic Socialists of America, was founding board chair of the New Press, and is currently a Left Forum board member.