Autonomy Myth: A Theory of Dependency

Overview

In this paradigm-shifting and controversial book, legal theorist and author Martha Fineman documents how American policymakers' overemphasis on the values of self-sufficiency and autonomy has negatively affected government policy relating to the care of the young, the elderly, and the infirm.

Those charged with administering U.S. social policy have long considered the marital family household as appropriately both separate and self-sufficient, at the cost the well-being of many ...

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Overview

In this paradigm-shifting and controversial book, legal theorist and author Martha Fineman documents how American policymakers' overemphasis on the values of self-sufficiency and autonomy has negatively affected government policy relating to the care of the young, the elderly, and the infirm.

Those charged with administering U.S. social policy have long considered the marital family household as appropriately both separate and self-sufficient, at the cost the well-being of many families and their members, particularly children. Vigorously taking issue with his approach, Fineman insists that because each of us is "inevitably dependent" at various stages in our lives, it makes much more sense for us to recognize from the outset that society has a vital role in providing assistance. Indeed, any individual carer's necessary reliance on outside resources makes this essential. Presenting her argument with conviction and eloquence, Fineman calls for the acceptance of collective and public responsibility for dependency, as well as a restructuring of the workplace consistent with a new understanding of the boundaries between private and public spheres. The Autonomy Myth demands a more responsive and active state to ensure that the burdens associated with dependency are more equitably distributed.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Noble and hackneyed, from literature ("no man is an island") to pop music ("he ain't heavy, he's my brother"), the idea of humankind's need for one another has probably been around for as long as humankind itself. With the evolution of small, nuclear families, however, the job of caring for others has largely fallen on the traditional, sexually affiliated couple in the family unit, a perception that has been enforced by public policy decisions. Director of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project and Robert Woodruff Professor at Emory Law School, Fineman has taken issue with family law in the past; she previously laid siege to the traditional family unit in The Neutered Mother, the Sexual Family. She now challenges the widely held assumption that these separate family units and our high regard for privacy and self-sufficiency are optimal for anyone involved. Since each of us, she argues, is "inevitably dependent" at some point(s) in our lives, our efforts should be focused not on eliminating dependency but on finding ways to cope with it through public agencies and well-compensated caretaking arrangements. Not everyone will agree with Fineman's ideas, but they are provocative and worth reading. Recommended for all libraries. [For an interview with the author, see "Who Cares for Society's Caretakers?" p. 95.-Ed.]-Ellen D. Gilbert, Princeton, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565847606
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 3/19/2004
  • Pages: 388
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
Introduction
Pt. 1 Foundational Myths: Autonomy, Dependency, and Social Debt 1
Ch. 1 Exploring Foundational Myths 7
Ch. 2 Dependency and Social Debt: Cracking the Foundational Myths 31
Pt. 2 Institutionalizing Autonomy 55
Ch. 3 The Family in the Rhetoric of Civil Society Privileging Marriage 71
Ch. 4 Why Marriage? 95
Ch. 5 The Future of Marriage 121
Pt. 3 Feminist Critiques of the Family 143
Ch. 6 Feminism and the Family Implementing Equality, Achieving Autonomy 156
Ch. 7 Mothering in a Gender-Neutral World 182
Pt. 4 The Autonomous Individual and the Autonomous Family Within the Social Contract 205
Ch. 8 Recasting the Social Contract 218
Ch. 9 The Tentative Workplace 241
Ch. 10 The Tenable State 263
Postscript 292
Notes 309
Index 371
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