- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 50843rd edition (January 30, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465037038
- ISBN-13: 978-0465037032
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Justice, Gender, and the Family 50843rd Edition
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From Library Journal
Okin, also author of Women in Western Political Thought ( LJ 1/15/80), here is concerned with the lack of justice experienced by American women in both the public and private spheres. Lack of justice in the private sphere of gender-structured marriage leads to a lack of justice in the public sphere of the work place, the professions, and politics. Marriage makes women vulnerable due to the devaluation of human reproductive work and the persistence of a traditional division of labor within marriage. Divorce compounds the problem since it results in poverty for many women. This is a strong study of the contradictions in a democratic form of government, but Okin's recommendations lack analysis and are not fully linked to the political and economic arena. Recommended for undergraduate and graduate collections.
- Eleanor A. Schwab, South Dakota State Univ., Brookings
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I think Okin treats the philosophers she studies fairly, but I think she is a little too quick to extend her judgments of their philosophical programs generally. Two examples. Okin rightly condemns Alasdair MacIntyre's Aristotelianism and Thomism for outright sexism and the privileging of an elite caste. Okin argues that MacIntyre offers little in the way of amendments to this aristocratic morality of domination, and in my experience with MacIntyre, I agree. But Okin seems to assume this must be true for all Aristotelians. But Okin must be aware of a number of neo-Aristotelians who take feminism very seriously indeed. Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen spring to mind.
Likewise, her treatment of Robert Nozick, while in my view quite devastating, cannot easily be extended to cover all libertarians, and certainly not all classical liberals. Her critique turns on a reductio ad absurdum of strong or absolutist property rights. But this approach would scarcely faze a modern Hayekian, who justifies the liberal order by an appeal to the beneficial consequences for individuals of certain defeasible (rather than absolute) norms.
Okin concludes with a powerful case that even modern marriage, unless it is a marriage of equals, makes women vulnerable, whether the wives work outside the home or not. If a wife doesn't work outside the home, she is economically dependent on the husband, and this creates a real power imbalance. Especially if children are involved, divorce worsens the economic condition of the woman (since expensive custody will typically go to her and her earning power has atrophied). But the situation is not much better if the woman works outside the home. In this case, the woman often works the "double day", continuing to do most of the domestic work while also working outside the home. Moreover, many workplaces (I think this has improved since Okin wrote in the late 80s, but likely only for some high skill/high status careers) still implicitly assume that there is "someone else at home" taking care of domestic duties. The woman's career and potential for advancement are thus hindered by needing to leave the job for childcare, domestic errands, family leave, etc. The exit option of divorce will still threaten a much worse economic position. This is exacerbated by the failure to fully take into account that the husband's earning power is typically by far the family's most valuable asset. Court divorce settlements do not reflect this asset as really belonging to the family, but to the male. Thus alimony payments are usually of shorter duration and of lower amount than a family asset model would recommend.
Okin carefully avoids the mistake of the radicals, and presents a positive picture of what the family can be. A marriage of equals - in power, economic means, and respect - supported by legal, economic, and cultural institutions that recognize the reality of human dependence and domestic *labor*, can provide a powerful foundation for society. Unlike the hierarchical family that is shielded from the considerations of justice, the egalitarian family in which justice is exemplified can more readily cultivate citizens capable of understanding and defending justice in the broader public world.