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Book review: The Rise of Women, by DiPrete and Buchmann

Originally published on TheAtlantic.com.

banner_pcohen rise of women AP.jpg

(Charles Dharapak/AP Images)

The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What it Means for American Schools is both ambitious and modest in its goals: Sociologists Thomas DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann provide an ambitious analysis of why and how girls are outperforming boys in high school and going on to get a disproportionate share of college degrees. However, the authors modestly remain within their subject matter and avoid the unsupported claims about women’s looming social dominance that have inflated much of the conversation about gender dynamics today.

This allows us to have a reasonable, valuable conversation about an important problem: the failure of the education system to help a majority of students to reach their academic potential. We clearly do not have a problem of over-education among women. Even among Whites alone, women as well as men are graduating college at rates lower than those in the most educationally advanced societies (which used to include the United States). Rather, we have a dysfunctional system that underperforms for men more than for women.

Rather than focusing on the full range of educational failures, DiPrete and Buchmann focus on a low-hanging fruit policy question: How can we improve college degree attainment for the approximately one-third of students who are ready to graduate college but do not, because they do not have the resources, they change their minds for some reason, or they are not adequately supported in the endeavor?

Women up

Since the 1980s, women have gotten the majority of bachelor’s degrees. That’s mostly because they also perform better in high school, getting better grades and taking more advanced courses. DiPrete and Buchmann set aside the issue of the potential cognitive advantages of girls, which may or may not be “innate.” Such differences are too small and stable to account for the rapid change and large advantage in educational attainment women now hold. The reasons we do not have more people completing college—and gaining more skills and knowledge to enrich their lives—are not genetic or biological, but rather social and economic. We can do better, for both men and women.

While women have continued their upward historical educational trajectory since World War II, men’s achievement of college degrees stagnated—coinciding historically with the growing necessity of having higher education for economic security. If you ever needed proof that majorities of people do not respond in predictably self-interested ways to economic incentives, it is the stagnation of male college graduation rates even as the returns to a college degree spiked upward.

DiPrete and Buchmann’s sensible policy suggestions draw from this key insight: The difference between men and women, and how it has changed, can best be understood by studying differencesamong men and women—within genders. That means we don’t just study what family, school, and environmental effects matter, but who is most strongly affected by such differences in the social context.

One important lesson: Schools with high overall performance have a smaller female advantage. That leads to the straightforward conclusion that we can address the gender gap partly by increasing the quality of schools across the board. Easier said than done, but no less important—or less true—for it.

Men up

It is important to connect women’s educational rise with the other trends that have upended gender relations in the U.S., and the authors do an admirable job of tying these in. In particular, the rise in women’s employment opportunities, the decline or delay in marriage, and falling fertility rates have all increased the incentives for (and ability of) women to complete college. And, of course, the rise in education has in turn fueled these other developments as well. For example, college graduate women as well as men are more likely to get (and stay) married than those who completed high school only. Maybe by getting a college degree they improve their marriage-market options—and reduce the odds that they will divorce by increasing the educational parity in their marriages.

While the title of DiPrete and Buchmann’s book is overly dramatic, the subtitle is appropriately limited: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What it Means for American Schools. Because although women are more likely to graduate college and get some advanced degrees than men are today, there is nothing in this trend that implies women will surpass men in overall earnings or economic (much less political) power in the foreseeable future.

Education, especially measured at the bachelor’s degree level, is merely one indicator in a whole suite of gender dynamics in which men overwhelmingly dominate. Further, women’s educational advantage is not so great that they will overcome the labor-market advantages that men have at all educational levels, the imbalances within families that persist today, or the tendency of women to end up in less lucrative fields of study and thus occupations.

The biggest problem for gender inequality among the college-educated remains the lack of gender integration across fields of study, which stalled in the 1980s. Men and women still largely educate themselves in different fields, with dramatic implications for their career trajectories and earnings throughout their lives. Segregation in fields of study is closely related to the issue of occupational segregation in the labor market. Both reflect a complex combination of choices and constraints made in varying social contexts—with decisions made early in life producing irreversible effects. In the latest reports, women are just 26 percent of workers in computer and math-related professional occupations and 14 percent of those in architectural and engineering professions.

And DiPrete and Buchmann’s analysis helps understand this stubborn problem. They report that high school is the key location to understand major-field segregation. Among high school boys and girls with strong interest in science and technology fields, there is no gender gap in the likelihood of completing such a major. The difference is in the rates of intention to major in those areas. Between 8th and 12th grade, girls lose interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM fields, for short) much more than boys do.

Women’s desire for people-oriented work, for work that is intrinsically interesting, and for occupations that permit work-family balance cannot fully explain their lower rates of majoring in STEM-related fields. Rather, the major source of the difference is that women do not express interest in STEM-related careers while in high school—and that is not because high school girls are not as good at math and science. Instead, the difference may be that boys believe they are better at math and science, especially math. The key policy insight in this area is that science-intensive high school environments greatly increase girls’ interests in physical science and engineering-related careers.

This is an important book, and although somewhat technical in its analysis sections it deserves a wide readership.

I have two minor complaints about The Rise of Women. The first is over its insistent focus on the four-year college degree and the economic benefits it brings. The fact that women receive more bachelor’s degrees than men but continue to earn less money confirms that a bachelor’s degree is not a first-class ticket to labor-market success. Although this helps to focus the book, it also distracts from the more universal problems we have, including an obsession with the material benefits of education.

DiPrete and Buchman conclude that we need to find ways to motivate students in middle and high school to devote more energy to their studies, by improving the quality of education as well as the quality of information students have to make the connection between what they learn in school and their future career ambitions. Too many boys don’t cognitively grasp that the difference between merely making it versus excelling through high school is measured in higher education success and potential career satisfaction. Finding ways to get this across might really help their motivation to work harder, the authors argue. But truly high-quality education takes students beyond such material calculations into the realm of the intrinsic beauty of discovery, the power of wonder, and the search for knowledge as a key to life, the universe and everything.

My second knock is that the authors seem not to notice the broad trend of slowing advances for women. For example, even though their charts show it, they don’t mention that the share of law and medical degrees earned by women slowed and then peaked in the early 2000s—and has declined since. Naturally, that is not the central concern of a study devoted to understanding women’s advantages. But in the context of the general gender stall, it’s important to realize that women’s progress across many areas is highly interrelated.

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Jonathan Last could live with barefoot-and-pregnant

I was replaced on the guest list for KCRW’s To the Point discussion about Jonathan Last’s book, What To Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster. But before I was cut I did some preparation — read some of the book and made some notes.

Last is a writer for the Weekly Standard (in which capacity he recently suggested that, rather than try to reach out to single people, the GOP should instead work on convincing more people to get married), who also wrote for First Things, a Christian conservative website. His essay in the Wall Street Journal sparked my initial post, but the book is more extreme than that column was.

Last doesn’t add substantively to the general concern that below-replacement fertility causes problems, except to exaggerate it cartoonishly for the U.S. (“The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate”). The historical perspective is so weak here I feel the need to remind him that caring for aging Baby Boomers is a problem not of low fertility but high fertility. Were it not for the high fertility of the Baby Boomers’ parents, we would have had gradually declining long-run fertility levels and a working-age population much more up for the task of funding Medicare and Social Security.

In the book he relies heavily on Phillip Longman, the author of “The Empty Cradle,” whom I’ve written about before, but also summons (without mentioning it) Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, which bemoans the divergent family structures of middle- and working-class White America and chastises the rich for being too self-absorbed and pleasure-driven to keep up their responsibilities as moral compasses. Thus, he tuts:

The bearing and raising of children has largely become the province of the lower classes.

Last and Longman are helping the American patriarchal right get its desire for “traditional” family structures in sync with corporate America’s amoral economic growth obsession, and it turns out boosting fertility is a message they can all get behind (plus it pleases both evangelical Protestant and conservative Catholic culture warriors).

last-cover-adapt

My adaptation of the book cover art.

Gender

Of course, fertility rates in the U.S. fell after the Baby Boom as women’s employment rates and educational  attainment increased. And those women with better opportunities have fewer children, on average. (However, this relationship is not universal or inevitable — see developments in Norway, for example.) But Last doesn’t want to create the impression that his wish for higher fertility implies opposition to women’s progress.

I’d also like to offer a preemptive defense against readers who may take this book to be a criticism of the modern American woman. Nothing could be further from my intent. … The more educated a woman is, on average, the fewer children she will have. To observe this is not to argue that women should be barefoot, pregnant, and waiting at home for their husbands every night with a cocktail and a smile.

But that he suggests we have more children — without taking steps to reconcile our endemic work-family conflicts and persistent gender imbalances (he’s not advocating universal childcare or healthcare, better welfare, paid family leave or a shorter workweek) – means that even if he’s not arguing for a return to barefoot-and-pregnant status, he’s at least willing to live with it.

Innovation

His passing nod to Esther Boserup was interesting to me. Writing in the 1960s and 1970s (which Last carelessly calls “a century ago,” after apparently skimming her Wikipedia entry), Boserup argued that population pressure spurred agricultural innovation. That is, farmers figured out how to rotate land more efficiently, for example, when there was more demand for farmland (and food). I don’t know how well this theory is holding up in the historical scholarship (I don’t think it explains European divergence from China, for example) but it is interesting — and we’ve now spent as much time thinking about it as Last did).

From this Last declares that the reverse is also true, that postindustrial societies suffer a lack of innovation when populations shrink. That is a question Boserup was unlikely to have troubled herself with (but let me know if I’m missing something she wrote on it). However, I could conjure the opposite hypothesis – that a rapidly shrinking population would spur a different kind of innovation in postindustrial society. For example, we may face pressure for old people to be more productive, as they delay retirement; and to invest more wisely (and heavily) in the smaller cohorts of children’s education and skill development.

Immigration

Last goes out of his way to say (perhaps too much) that he’s not against immigration, without which American fertility rates would be much lower.  He is just against the immigration of people who don’t assimilate into America’s Christian majority. He writes:

A reasonably liberal program of immigration is necessary for the longterm health of our country. Yet at the same time, this liberal approach to immigration should be coupled with a staunchly traditionalist view of integration. America has been lucky in the way it has assimilated most of its immigrants. Europe—and France in particular—has not. “Europe” as we have known it for 15 centuries is almost certain to fade away in the next 50 years, replaced by a semi-hostile Islamic ummah. All that will remain of what we traditionally know as “Europe” is the name [It's not clear why the hostile Islamic majority of 2063 would retain the name "Europe" -pnc]. This change was not inevitable; it is the result of a policy choice made by adherents of a truly radical faith: multiculturalism. … Tolerance need not be surrender and a certain amount of cultural chauvinism is necessary for societal coherence.” (p. 169)

“Racism” is the wrong term for this attitude. I guess his term “cultural chauvinism” is accurate because it assumes a cultural superiority. But that doesn’t quite capture the animus. Anyway: If the problem is falling fertility, why worry about the culture that the fertile immigrants bring? It’s just possible that Last’s problem is not just with fertility.

Religion

Like Longman, Last is sad about the demise of religion in the “public square,” which reduces fertility. In this he reveals his apocalyptic Christian moorings:

Of all of the evolutions in twentieth-century America, the most consequential might be the exodus of religion from the public square.

Really. More consequential than civil rights, women’s rights, science, public health, militarism and Wall Street? And isn’t exodus a strong word for what’s happened? There’s only one reason to believe a moderate decline in religiosity is more important than anything else: Because God said so. Anyway, besides ending the War on Christmas, Last also wants us to give credit for births where it is due (to God).

America is the most demographically healthy industrialized nation; it is also the most religiously devout. This is not a coincidence. … There is no reason for wishing the United States to be a theocracy. That said, it is important we preserve the role of religion in our public square, resisting those critics who see theocracy lurking behind every corner. Our government should be welcoming of, not hostile to, believers—if for no other reason than they’re the ones who create most of the future taxpayers. After all, there are many perfectly good reasons to have a baby. (Curiosity, vanity, and naïveté all come to mind.) But at the end of the day, there’s only one good reason to go through the trouble a second time: Because you believe, in some sense, that God wants you to.

I guess that means atheists don’t have a good reason to have more than one child. (Are there multiple-child atheists out there to respond to this?) Anyway, it’s usually not a good sign when an author follows “There is no reason for wishing the United States to be a theocracy,” with, “That said…”

Transportation

We can see the depth of Last’s commitment to the long term in his discussion of transportation. One reason New Englanders and other liberals don’t have enough children, he believes, is because land is too expensive where they live. So they have small houses and long commutes, which aren’t conducive to child-rearing.

The answer is not more public transportation. Light rail might work for the child-free. (Or it might not; there is a stark divide in the literature on mass transit.) But parents trying to balance work and children need the flexibility automobiles provide; they cannot easily drop a child at a babysitter or school, then take a train to work, then train home, and then fetch the child. (If you don’t believe me, you try it.) The solution is building more roads.

That’s our destiny? A more efficient suburban sprawl to nurture our larger families? Doesn’t he care about climate change? Maybe, maybe not. He writes in a footnote:

The only environmentalist concern that population [growth] might legitimately affect is climate change, a subject so fraught with theological division that I’ll leave it be.

What courage, refusing to genuflect the climate-change authorities like that. And yet what cowardice to refuse to take a position in the face of “theological division.” That’s some combination.

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Teaching family inequality: Some posts by subject

Getting started with a new semester.

As I’m preparing my undergraduate Families and Society course, I’m pulling together some short readings for discussions, including posts from this blog. Here are some you might find helpful for your own teaching, organized according to the chapters of my forthcoming textbook, The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Society Change.

Introductory

  • Why don’t parents name their daughters Mary anymore? Sociology helps explain how things that seem intimate, like a baby’s name, reflect broader social patterns and trends. In the case of names, individuality is increasingly valued and traditional names suddenly seem boring.
  • Good woman child language: Basic concepts of male and female, good and bad, are linguistically related to gender and family relationships. For example, the word for “good” in Chinese is a combination of the words for “woman” and “child,” and the word for “man” is made from “field” plus “strength.”
  • Take my words for it: homogamy and heterogamy: What we call things matters. As marriage people  people of the same sex becomes legal in more and more places, does it matter how we refer to different forms of marriage?

History

Race/ethnicity

Social class

Gender

  1. 12 minutes in segregationland. How much gender division of labor can you spot in 12 minutes at the train station? A statistical photo essay.
  2. Tangled up in Disney’s dimorphism. What does it mean when they exaggerate the differences between men’s and women’s bodies?
  3. What if women were in charge? When women get management jobs, some things change. But it hasn’t been enough to complete the push toward gender equality.

Sexuality

Love and romantic relationships

Cohabitation and marriage

Families and children

Divorce and remarriage

Work and families

Violence and abuse

Wow, looking back at all these posts, I feel as if I better have written a book by now. Just one more chapter to go! Your feedback is always welcome, whether you are a teacher using these posts in class or just reading.

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Quick book review: The Price of Inequality

The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz (W. W. Norton, 2012)

My economics training as a sociologist — with a background in American Culture studies — has been spotty and roundabout. I got a healthy dose of Marxist economics in college, and then some feminist economics, a little human capital theory and some dated econometrics in grad school and since.

All that made reading made it interesting, and also frustrating, to read The Price of Inequality, by Joseph Stiglitz – a winner of the Nobel Prize for economics and an “insanely great economist,” according to Paul Krugman.

On the plus side, I am glad to see someone within mainstream economic theory freely discussing all the ways that common assumptions simply do not predominate in the modern economic scene. Especially helpful in this category is his discussion of how “rents” accumulate vast resources at the upper end of the income distribution, with perverse effects on economic development and politics alike. At the very top — in the finance sector especially, but also in energy and big manufacturing — there is nothing like free-market competition. And the beneficiaries of those distortions are the most powerful players in the economy and political system.

It is refreshing to see this concentration of wealth described as waste and distortion, as their vast profits provide little gain to anyone else. In fact, dumping vast wealth on the 1% creates a drag on the macroeconomy while fueling the historic run-up in economic inequality. This is all very timely and takes you right through the financial crisis up to early 2012.

So if you want to understand from an economic perspective how “the market” in America isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, this book may be for you.

Top 1% income shares, including capital gains, for the U.S. and Sweden. From the World Top Incomes Database.

The other good thing about the book for many readers will be its cogent and comprehensive economic rationale for the liberal reforms that many of you probably supported already. Stiglitz makes the case that a suite of reforms – an agenda Rachel Maddow, Elizabeth Warren and Robert Reich probably agree on – would, by (directly or indirectly) increasing taxes (or reducing subsidies) on the wealthy and redistributing wealth downward, reduce the federal debt, increase economic growth, and reduce economic inequality all at the same time.

Round numbers: if the richest 1% earn about 20% of all income, then taxing them another 10% would generate government revenue equivalent to 2% of GDP. (And it wouldn’t hurt anything, since they just hoard or waste their extra cash anyway rather than “creating jobs” with it, and they’re so greedy they wouldn’t be discouraged by the disincentive effect of higher taxes.) That’s an amount of money that could actually be useful for poor people.

The frustration I feel reading the book is more amorphous. I think there have to be better ways of describing this whole system than using the language of mainstream economics, which ends up painting a picture of an entire system that does not work according to the rules as imagined. Concepts like power, social class, social networks, elites and reification do not figure heavily in this story. In fact, Stiglitz’s apparent ignorance of sociology is sometimes funny as in this passage:

Social sciences like economics differ from the hard sciences in that beliefs affect reality: beliefs about how atoms behave don’t affect how Adams actually behave, but beliefs about how the economic system functions affect how it actually functions. George Soros, the great financier, has referred to this phenomenon has “reflexivity,” and his understanding of it may have contributed to his success.

I guess after what people like me have made of econometrics it’s only fair that economists would attribute the idea of reflexivity to Soros. (The discussion of reflexivity in Anthony Giddens’s book The Consequences of Modernity is very approachable.)

Anyway, the book is easy to read and informative, and has lots of footnotes and references.

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2011 books for the Family Inequality reader in your life

One book forward, two books back.

The list of books I’d like to read pulled way ahead of the books I’ve read this year. Here is a partial list of books published in 2011 that I have read, or that I want to, of potential interest to Family Inequality readers.


Kathleen Gerson’s book, Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family, is based on life history interviews with 120 or so young adults to look back at their family lives growing up — and look forward to the families they hope to form.  Having grown up between a gender revolution (women’s independence, employment) and a hard place (divorce, economic insecurity), they evaluate the parents that separated and those that didn’t, the breadwinner-homemakers and the dual-earners, and then set out their own ideals — which they simultaneously doubt they can achieve. The book is well written and organized, good for undergrads willing to read and grad students learning how to design their own research projects.

Mara Hvistendahl is a science journalist who has written a critical and compelling account of the origins and implications of sex-selective abortion and the skewed sex ratios it creates, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. It’s a journalistic account that gets the demographic science right, but also pushes out (beyond the data) to make alarming predictions that provoke great discussion.

Annette Lareau has updated her important book Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life (Second Edition with an Update a Decade Later). When using the first edition in a stratification class years ago, I cautioned my students that Lareau couldn’t say how the parenting differences she documented would actually affect the children she studied. Now we know quite a bit more, and her new analysis is insightful. One of the big differences between the “concerted cultivation” of the middle-class parents and the “accomplishment of natural growth” of the poor and working-class parents is their interactions with the institutions that stand between childhood and adulthood, especially schools. If you read or teach this book, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the update.

Sadly, those are the only ones one this list I’ve really read yet. So this is much more a wish list than a recommendation list. Here are the others near the top of my pile:

A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s. Stephanie Coontz’s social history of the Betty Friedan classic and its impact on American society.

The Inequalities of Love: College-Educated Black Women and the Barriers to Romance and Family. Sociologist Averil Y. Clarke’s study of personal narratives and demographic data aims to uncover “how race and class create unequal access to ‘love,’ serious relationships, and marriage,” according to Paula England’s blurb.

Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School. Sociologist Shamus Khan returns to St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire to update the story of how elite schools teach the embodiment of privilege in a new era.

Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America. Marcia Carlson and Paula England are the editors of this new collection, which features contributions by such leading lights as, among others, Philip Morgan (on fertility and inequality), Kathryn Edin (low-income urban fathers), Annette Lareau (see above) and Frank Furstenberg (wrapping up).

Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China. Judith Stacey is a feminist, a sociologist, and a postmodernist with something actually relevant to say (those are my terms — I hope she doesn’t mind). According to the blurb, she “decouples the taken for granted relationships between love, marriage, and parenthood,” and “undermines popular convictions about family, gender, and sexuality held on the left, right, and center.” Just what I would expect, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Markets and Bodies: Women, Service Work, and the Making of Inequality in China. Sociologist Eileen Otis presents a comparative ethnography of formal and informal service workplaces in two Chinese cities, looking for the “interactive hierarchies” between customers and the women who serve them, and the organizational contexts the shape their interactions. I’ve heard her present some of this, and she’s a compelling story-teller. Looks good.

Framed by Gender: How Gender Inequality Persists in the Modern World. Sociologist Ceclia Ridgeway argues that cultural frames in social interactions imbue uncertain situations with traditional gender beliefs and standards, making social change a sticky and uneven process. If Joan Williams thinks it’s “the most important book on gender I have read in decades,” and Barbara Risman says, “If you only read one book about inequality this decade, make it this one,” then it’s worth a look.

Finally, allow me to plug two books by friends at UNC. I’ve seen them working away on these books for years, and to have them finally out is a thrill — especially given the positive reception they’re both getting.

Karolyn Tyson has published Integration Interrupted: Tracking, Black Students, and Acting White after Brown, which uses students own voices to examine “how our schools are implicated in the creation of oppositional culture among all students, white as well as black,” in the words of James Rudy. The book “offers no comfort to those quick to blame black students for their disadvantages,” says Samuel Lucas.

Lisa Pearce and Melinda Denton have written A Faith of Their Own: Stability and Change in the Religiosity of America’s Adolescents, which uses a large survey and in-depth interviews with 120 adolescents to find out how religion changes in their lives over these pivotal years. After reading this, we should know not to refer to “religiosity” or “religiousness” as a something that can be simply quantified for young people. Religion splashes a colorful social and ideological collage through their developing practices and identities.

This list is very incomplete. Please feel free to add any additional suggestions in the comments.

Note: I haven’t gotten any promotional “consideration” for endorsing these books, and I don’t get any money if you follow the Amazon links to buy them. However, if you would like me to review your book, feel free to send it to me with no strings attached.

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New to-reads

After the American Sociological Association meeting, there are always new books to read. Here are a couple I put on my own list.

First is Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture, by Allison Pugh. This won the annual book award from ASA’s Family Section.

From the publisher:

Even as they see their wages go down and their buying power decrease, many parents are still putting their kids’ material desires first. These parents struggle with how to handle children’s consumer wants, which continue unabated despite the economic downturn. And, indeed, parents and other adults continue to spend billions of dollars on children every year. Why do children seem to desire so much, so often, so soon, and why do parents capitulate so readily? To determine what forces lie behind the onslaught of Nintendo Wiis and Bratz dolls, Allison J. Pugh spent three years observing and interviewing children and their families. In Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture, Pugh teases out the complex factors that contribute to how we buy, from lunchroom conversations about Game Boys to the stark inequalities facing American children. Pugh finds that children’s desires stem less from striving for status or falling victim to advertising than from their yearning to join the conversation at school or in the neighborhood. Most parents respond to children’s need to belong by buying the particular goods and experiences that act as passports in children’s social worlds, because they sympathize with their children’s fear of being different from their peers. Even under financial constraints, families prioritize children “feeling normal”. Pugh masterfully illuminates the surprising similarities in the fears and hopes of parents and children from vastly different social contexts, showing that while corporate marketing and materialism play a part in the commodification of childhood, at the heart of the matter is the desire to belong.

Another book I’ve seen of but haven’t read yet: When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage, by M. V. Lee Badgett:

In order to find out the impact of same-sex marriage, M. V. Lee Badgett traveled to a land where it has been legal for same-sex couples to marry since 2001: the Netherlands. Badgett interviews gay couples to find out how this step has affected their lives. … In the end, Badgett compellingly shows that allowing gay couples to marry does not destroy the institution of marriage and that many gay couples do benefit, in expected as well as surprising ways, from the legal, social, and political rights that the institution offers.

Also, one of the panelists I heard contrasted the work of Eva Illouz on families with that of Anthony Giddens on the Transformation of Intimacy and his idea of late modernity’s “pure relationship.” I’ve read a little of her book Consuming the Romantic Utopia from 1997, but I’m thinking to take up her 2007 book, Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism:

It is commonly assumed that capitalism has created an a-emotional world dominated by bureaucratic rationality; that economic behavior conflicts with intimate, authentic relationships; that the public and private spheres are irremediably opposed to each other; and that true love is opposed to calculation and self-interest. Eva Illouz rejects these conventional ideas and argues that the culture of capitalism has fostered an intensely emotional culture in the workplace, in the family, and in our own relationship to ourselves. She argues that economic relations have become deeply emotional, while close, intimate relationships have become increasingly defined by economic and political models of bargaining, exchange, and equity. This dual process by which emotional and economic relationships come to define and shape each other is called emotional capitalism. Illouz finds evidence of this process of emotional capitalism in various social sites: self-help literature, women’s magazines, talk shows, support groups, and the Internet dating sites.

I like the cover. If you have other ideas, from the conference or otherwise, feel free to share in the comments.

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