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.