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The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values Paperback – May 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; 1 edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565847474
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565847477
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #684,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the "invisible hand" of the free market and the competitive individualism it engenders increasingly dominate public life, contends UMass-Amherst economist and MacArthur fellow Folbre (Who Pays for the Kids?), we risk losing the other necessary component of a healthy society: "the invisible heart," a care system for children, the aged and the infirm. The market does not provide such support, and in the prescribed labor divisions of old, women fulfilled this need for little or no recompense. But now that women have begun to shuck off this enforced role, where, asks Folbre, will care come from? In seeking an answer, she delivers an incisive, informed social critique. Government, she contends, provides a bureaucratic hodgepodge of programs that serves few well and punishes the poor. Regressive taxation assures that some will be able to afford more care than others; unequal school funding guarantees some will become better educated than others. Corporations neglect social responsibilities in favor of the bottom line. In the end, Folbre concludes, we are all responsible for one another, but only radical changes in how we live and work democratic control of the economy, a dramatic redistribution of wealth and so on will strengthen the ethic of solidarity and reciprocity that is a prerequisite for such care. Folbre makes an important contribution to the discussion of what our society could be, and her humor and insight elevate her book above mere political diatribe. (Apr. 1) Forecast: Folbre's progressive/feminist response to "compassionate conservatism" should spark lively debate and sales. This is perfect for the sociology or cultural crit classroom and will also appeal to fans of fellow MacArthur recipient Mike Davis (Prisoners of the American Dream).
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

MacArthur Award winner Folbre (economics, Univ. of Massachusetts) specializes in the interaction of feminist theory and political economy. In this readable, well-documented, and thought-provoking work, she discusses the invisible heart of caring labor, which is not easily put in terms of dollars. She explains how this concept relates to Adam Smith's notion of the invisible hand with regard to supply and demand and the pursuit of self-interests. For centuries, women provided care for free in the home. Now, with more of them working outside the home, what used to be a priority for them is in the hands of institutions that do not obtain the funding priorities other endeavors have in the global economy. The ability to provide personal and loving care is being eroded. Folbre discusses how government, society, and employers can look at economic theory and practice to prioritize what individuals and institutions can do for the care of children, the sick, and the elderly. A good choice for academic and large public libraries.DSteven J. Mayover, formerly with the Free Lib. of Philadelphia
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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45 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on May 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anyone economist whom the Wall Street Journal takes a swipe at is doing something right in my book. I don't recall the exact quote but the Journal says something like Folbre is a "feminist economist who studies family economics (socialism)." Folbre wonders aloud if the Journal believes families are necessarily socialist. Judging from their characterization of Folbre's work, and their endorsement of strict neoclassical econonmic theory in their editorial section, it appears that the Journal and other business and economic theorists of their ilk would prefer to simply call families names than deal with their true economic and moral value in the realm of capitalism.
Folbre's thesis is that capitalism has been enjoying a "free ride" on families and communitites from very early on. She further argues that capitalism is changing the ways people and families concieve of themselves. Using memorable examples, she makes a convincing case for the inclusion of traditional women's work such as child rearing in such measures as the GDP. After all, don't corporations need smart well-trained workers? And don't smart well-trained workers grow up inside families who nuture, care, and educate them? Further, don't families and workers mostly pay for their training?
Most economists are uncomfortable thinking about how the social and moral structure of society underpins capitalism. This is because they can't find ways to measure this "natural resource." Conservatives know that capitalism encourages radical individualism -- that's why they are always trying to impose "traditional values" on workers. Conservatives know that capitalism depletes people's sense of obligation and responsibility -- that's why they talk about it so much.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Hope Rose on November 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book, The Invisible Heart, is a tremendous contribution to the field of economics. Folbre completely changes the lenses in our glasses, allowing us to see for the first time how the capitalist system is rooted in a non-capitalist entity--the family--without which capitalism would crumble. She then describes how capitalism punishes those economic actors that make it possible (i.e., the unpaid caregivers of all human beings), making care increasingly irrational. If capitalism succeeds, it will not only sound the death knell of the family, but also its own death knell. This should be required reading for anyone who understands that it is the invisible heart, not the invisible hand, that makes prosperity possible.
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Format: Paperback
More than I expected, this book opened my mind and changed my perspective on a number of issues. Nancy Folbre explains the importance of love, obligation, and reciprocity in explaining economic relationships. Furthermore, she emphasizes the role of women and especially the role of caring in our economy, and why we need more of it. While her final chapter, explaining her policy suggestions, is inconsistent at times (e.g. that progressive taxes should reduce work hours is not as clear as the author makes it -- this depends on the relative importance of income and substitution effects), the rest of the book runs through the litany of issues, both philosophical and empirical, affecting our "care economy".
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8 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Dovell on June 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
She attempts to make a feminist arguement which is fine but she makes dozens upon dozens of claims without backing them up with any source or validity.This book was clearly not peer reviewed let alone proofread. There are better feminist writers (Naomi Wolf), better liberal writers (Alexander Cockburn) and better economists (Milton Friedman).
Here are some of the logical errors w/ page numbers.
Xix She rambles about some story about a drunk rich man that used to go hunting with her father and yet she says "I learned at a tender age that some very successful men couldn't always tell the difference between milk and mayonnaise" Well that's because he was a chronic drunk that happened to be rich! Talk about leaving a detail out or a general assumption....

4. Her first stat is an automatic bias because it is quoting the economic department of UMass Boston Amherst of which she was the Chair

16. Quotes whirlpool foundation's poll even though they are not a polling agency!

22. She completely ignores the fact that there are other groups that were performing labor for men. Now she obviously mentions women being a feminist and that's fine and she also mentions children. Child labor on the large scale ended in the USA in the 1930's...she fails to mention slavery...one could buy a slave when it was legal. There was however no buying of women,infact in the old dowry system it was often the opposite!

40. States that mothers are often reluctant to threaten for fear that loss of contact with the father will harm the child...based on what...there's no statistic given here....no empirical data at all

46 "Most families already have a hard time paying their child care bills" according to who? most? What a generalization here! "most" being what? 70%? 60%?
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