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The American gender order has changed in dramatic ways since the turn of the twentieth century, and to a great extent, it was the marketplace that gave rise to these changes. The family wage associated with union jobs in the industrial has largely disappeared. In the new economy, high-paying careers demand steep investments of education and training, while jobs accessible to those without college and post-graduate training increasingly tend to be McJobs that offer flexibility, but little in the way of high wages, good benefits, stability, or access to a progressive career ladder. In order to pursue the good life, women as well as men now expect to be in the marketplace for much of their adult lives.
How should the family, and the state, respond to these changes. Has the imperative pushing all adults into the marketplace created a crisis in the family? Who should take care of the children while Mom and Dad work full-time? A government subsidized day care? An immigrant woman without citizenship papers? If the reciprocal relationship between the family and the market has broken down, what about the relationship between male and female? Is heterosexuality itself or, at least, the binary gender order becoming a nineteenth century anachronism?
As well asposing these substantive questions about the family, the market, the state, and the gender order, this book provides a variety of analytic tools for thinking about them. We are used to talking about gender in legal and moral terms, with words like fairness, difference, and equality. We are used to thinking about the family in emotional and psychological terms with words like love and care.
What might the language of economics bring to the analysis of family and gender? The Chicago economist Gary Becker caused a stir when he began to analyze the family as a site of bargaining and negotiation. Was he right that the family is a place of economic power struggle, not just a place where one goes to recover from the harsh world of the market? If the family is an economic institution, how does that change our picture of its relationship to the market as traditionally conceived?