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A Mother's Work: How Feminism, the Market, and Policy Shape Family Life Hardcover – April 28, 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"An excellent book, well written and accessible, controversial and careful. Gilbert does a terrific job of looking beneath the data to consider what they really tell us."—Anne Alstott, Yale Law School, author of No Exit: What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents

(Anne Alstott)

“A compelling, objective study by one of America’s leading public intellectuals, this book should  trigger a serious debate about what is in the best interests of children.”—David Popenoe, Rutgers University, author of Life without Father 
(David Popenoe)

"A groundbreaking book, A Mother’s Work: How Feminism, the Market and Policy Shape Family Life, reconsiders traditional views on motherhood. Through his examination of the average middle class mom, Gilbert provides cutting edge analysis of a mother’s value in the market economy."—Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Off-Ramps and On Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success, President of the Center for Work-Life Policy
(Sylvia Ann Hewlett)

"Gilbert offers a thought-provoking analysis and policy response to an issue of critical importance."—Cheryl A. Hyde, Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare
(Cheryl A. Hyde Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare)

About the Author

Neil Gilbert is Milton and Gertrude Chernin Professor of Social Welfare and Social Services at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books, including Welfare Justice and his writing on public policy issues has appeared in Commentary, Society, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in Orinda, CA.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (April 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300119674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300119671
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,825,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Donald E. Brown on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this pleasantly up-to-date, readable, and with useful conclusions. I was particularly struck by what is said about the economic effects of 2-earner professional families.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book, Neil Gilbert examines how capitalism, feminism, and the state influence lifestyle choices and the changing role of motherhood. They do so, he argues, by generating norms, values, and hence social pressures that subordinate motherhood to the market. Gilbert, the social policy professor for whom I worked as a graduate student at the School of Social Welfare, U.C. Berkeley, thirty-six years ago, argues that the main policy approaches to harmonizing work and family--"family-friendly" and gender-neutralizing policies--both subordinate family to work. They assume and support the male model in which paid work starts early and is continuous. The traditional model of a father who provides and protects and a woman who manages the home and nurtures the children has given way to one in which both parents give priority of time and effort to the labor market. Periods in which the mother absents herself from work in order to have children are seen as "interruptions" and the aim of policymakers and feminist pundits--is to get mothers, whether they are on welfare or pursuing high-powered careers--back into the labor market as early as possible.

Gilbert shares the general view that "something must be done" to harmonize work and family life. But what? There are, he says, two common policy approaches to this challenge:
1) So-called family-friendly policies; and
2) Gender-neutralizing policies.

1) "Family-friendly" measures to allow mothers with young children to work include, for example,
a. Early child care
b. Paid parental leave
c. Part-time work
d. Such voluntary measures as flexible hours, special family leave, telephone access.
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