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All in the Family: The Private Roots of American Public Policy [Paperback]

by Patricia Strach
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 13, 2007 0804756090 978-0804756099 1
Even a casual observer of American politics might notice the importance of family in political rhetoric like the Republicans' "family values" and the Democrats' "working families," but we know surprisingly little about the role of family in American politics. We typically think of family as "private" and out of the public realm of politics or we associate family and public policy with so-called family policies, such as welfare or family leave. The goal of this book is to clarify the relationship between seemingly private family life and federal public policies. It asks two important questions: How do policymakers employ the concept of family in the policy process? And, what are the consequences of employing this concept broadly in public policy?

All in the Family is the first empirical study of family in the American policy process. It shows that, far from being "private" or only a part of "family policy," family is an important part of American policymaking even in seemingly "non-family" policies like immigration, tax, and agriculture. Policymakers rely on family to determine eligibility, distribute goods, and provide justification for their positions across a wide range of policies. Ultimately, this book shows that seemingly private life makes American public policy possible, and it suggests that the ability of policymakers to accomplish their goals is intimately tied to the strength and organization of American families. Yet, it also demonstrates that relying on a dynamic institution like family can have unintended consequences, potentially destabilizing policies over time.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Strach provides a wealth of new data that highlights the strategic use of family by policy makers as a rhetorical device in the policy process... [This] book will be valuable to researchers and graduate students who study public policy and the US Congress."—CHOICE


"Strach gets beyond overheated political rhetoric and the so-called Culture Wars to examine how our conceptions of what families are and should be infuse many aspects of public policy, and to ask what happens to public policy when the structure and practice of family diverges from those expectations."—Christina Wolbrecht, University of Notre Dame


"This book brings family into the academic study of policy in a new way, with significant payoffs for both the study of how family functions as an institution connected to governance and for political science more generally."—Julie Novkov, University of Oregon


"[Patricia Strach] does contribute to this grand narrative by exploring the intricate relationships between family and state in contemporary America and by examining how policymakers use the concept of the family in fashioning, promoting, and opposing particular programs. The careful balance between quantitative and qualitative methods, the effort to avoid an ideological vantage point, and the attempt to incorporate findings from public policy in other areas make this a valuable work." —Political Science Quarterly


"Patricia Strach lucidly and persuasively contrasts the ideal of the family in public policy with the more complex and changing reality. The book will be of interest not only to political scientists but to those interested in gender and social policy, a burgeoning field of academic debate." —Cambridge Journal

From the Inside Flap

Even a casual observer of American politics might notice the importance of family in political rhetoric like the Republicans’ “family values” and the Democrats’ “working families,” but we know surprisingly little about the role of family in American politics. We typically think of family as “private” and out of the public realm of politics or we associate family and public policy with so-called family policies, such as welfare or family leave. The goal of this book is to clarify the relationship between seemingly private family life and federal public policies. It asks two important questions: How do policymakers employ the concept of family in the policy process? And, what are the consequences of employing this concept broadly in public policy?
All in the Family is the first empirical study of family in the American policy process. It shows that, far from being “private” or only a part of “family policy,” family is an important part of American policymaking even in seemingly “non-family” policies like immigration, tax, and agriculture. Policymakers rely on family to determine eligibility, distribute goods, and provide justification for their positions across a wide range of policies. Ultimately, this book shows that seemingly private life makes American public policy possible, and it suggests that the ability of policymakers to accomplish their goals is intimately tied to the strength and organization of American families. Yet, it also demonstrates that relying on a dynamic institution like family can have unintended consequences, potentially destabilizing policies over time.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (June 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804756090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804756099
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,799,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading February 3, 2008
Format:Paperback
All in the Family focuses on the use of family in terms of policy eligibility, distribution of goods, and as a normative idea to provide justification for a policy. While Strach focuses on three policy areas to test her theoretical design (immigration, tax, and agriculture) this paradigm can be used to explore other policy areas. Her discussion regarding the creation of policy gaps is seen throughout and adds an additional incentive for those interested in policy to read the book. Furthermore, the book demonstrates how the family, an area considered private, influences and is impacted by the very public realm of policy.

Strach stays on track throughout the book, demonstrating how her examples support her argument rather than veering off topic or allowing her examples to become the primary focus (as so many scholarly books unfortunately do). The research is thorough and well documented. Her writing style is focused and informative, without being dry or dull. The examples she chose not only move the debate over the public/private divide outside of traditional areas (such as welfare), but also ensures that her framework can be applied to a multitude of policy areas.

I would recommend the book first and foremost to those studying public policy (from its creation to its impact). However, it is a worthwhile read for those interested in many areas, including those interested in American government, issues of inequality, gender issues, political rhetoric, and American Political Development.
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5.0 out of 5 stars All in the Family: A Thought Provoking Book January 31, 2008
Format:Paperback
This book stimulates thinking about connections between the role of the family and how "family" is conceptualized by public policy. Especially if one hasn't given much thought to the issues before, there are more connections than one would think. Information is thoroughly researched and documented. A very interesting read. An important book in its field.
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