Family past is the ongoing crisis of indiscrete symbolism itself. The inheritors of 1970s neo-conservatism contributed to the family crisis for left and right social conservatives, which inevitably seems to have changed very little over the past few decades. It also appears like the American family is suffering from a general fatherlessness crisis. Poor, impoverished women, particularly African Americans and Latinas, still have out-of-wedlock children and even expect them to be taken care of by the welfare state. Centered on her claim on freedom, this paper addresses Melinda Cooper’s Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism
Keywords: family values, neoliberalism, conservatism
Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism
According to Cooper (2017), neoliberal policymakers together with social conservatives are aiming at imposing cuts on welfare benefits as a way of getting young women to go back into being married and raising a family. In the book, Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism, Melinda Cooper pointed out how neoconservatives believed that the change that has occurred in the American family is as a result of young ladies having children out of wedlock and getting welfare benefits from the state to take care of their babies. According to Cooper, having children outside marriage used to be an African American and Latina thing, but it has now spread from younger African American and Latina women to young white middle-class women, who value career over marriage, and are now having babies and becoming single moms. And therefore, resulting in the issue with the neoconservatives who see young white women having children outside wedlock as what is causing the decline of the American family.
The neoliberals, on the other hand, argued in Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism, that the Fordist family wage breakdown is a significant reason behind family breakups. Cooper mentioned Gary Becker of the Chicago school of economics who believed that the changing family structure could have been as a result of the Fordist family wage breakdown. “Neoliberals are particularly concerned about the enormous social cost that derive from the breakdown of the stable Fordist family: the costs that have been incurred, for example, by women who opt for no-fault divorce, women who have children out of wedlock or those who engage in unprotected sex without private without private insurance; and the fact that these costs accrue to the government and taxpayer rather than the private family” (Green & Clarke, 2016). It is true that in the early 20th century the Ford Motor Company’s product is in high demand, globally.
The global market for Ford cars created a massive economic growth and job stability for the American economy. Workers who are men received higher living wages. The big bucks made by the mostly white ford worker also created a problem of race and class. The book talks about the exclusion of African American men from the breadwinner wage and African American women relegated to farm work and domestic labor to white households.
So, neoliberals blame the end of the Fordist wage as the result of the decline of the American family as many workers who work on the production line and perform a specialized task repeatedly could not do so anymore because production occurs in small badges. Thus, led to families break up like the man that is being looked up to as the sole breadwinner can no longer provide for the family, hence causing the wives to look for an alternative to make ends meet, which in most cases could lead to the family breaking up. The Fordist family wage breakdown represented the shrinking American middle class and looked at as a working male, a stay home wife and mother, and two or more children.
According to Green et.al (2016), one of the neoliberal reforms is the flexible labor relations, which according to German political economists Wolfgang Streeck, is causing elastic family. The non-equal treatment of women is endemic in our society. Until recently, women are not allowing to do certain jobs or perform a certain role like, for example, combat in the military, or head a company, or run a country. According to Wolfgang’s work, “the economic security of the post-war era was premised on a tightly enforced sexual division of labor that relegated women to lower-paid, precarious forms of employment and indexed the wage of the Fordist worker to the cost of maintaining a wife and children at home,” (Green et.al, 2016).
Cooper also talked about Wolfgang Streeck, the German political economist who argued that the Fordist family consisting of a male worker, a stay home wife and mother, and two or more children is dismantled and replaced by flexible family, and Fordist employment by flexible employment. He claimed this was caused by the introduction of no-fault divorce to the growing acceptance of cohabitation. He reasons that if a woman is not committed to a long-term marital contract, they were not tied to men regarding economic dependence, and men are let off the hook of looking after a wife and children for life. Wolfgang is against this stance. Lifting the burden of the marriage contract is a good thing. It will bring about mutual respect, and make both parties know that they are both providers. It could eliminate domestic abuse and create room for a robust debate on how to move the family forward.
Another area of interest talked about by Melinda Cooper is the area of inheritance of property and estate talent. One could argue that heritage of expertise is way more important than the inheritance of property because with talent one can achieve a great deal than whatever property inheritance that is being left behind. Conservative legal scholar Mary Ann Glendon wrote an article that talks about the end of the family as an economic institution, her argument was based on changes made at that time to family law and property law claiming that the family is declining because of the diminishing impact of inheritance. Charles A. Reich also argued that government largesse, such as social insurance, welfare, and public service contracts was taken the place of private property. The argument here was that because of the increase in social programs, transmission of wealth inheritance would lose its primary significance, but while all this is taking place President, Nixon was going to add African American men into the Fordist family wage but gave up the idea after being pressured. But it wasn’t until the time of Reagan that the United States witnessed massive cuts into social programs and substantial tax cuts for the rich.
Wendy Brown and Melinda Cooper’s book appears to look similar; they tend to agree on the fact that neoliberalism is all about gutting social programs such as healthcare, education, and welfare. The idea that it is a private family responsibility and government shouldn’t bear the burden of the poor and the needy in the society, while cutting billions in taxes for the rich is mindboggling. The good thing, however, is the idea that the late Fordist social revolution could be made neutral by “democratizing consumer credit,” this I think is a good idea whereby The Fordist family ideology which discriminates against women and turns them into second hand will not be revered. In all, it is still a bad idea to create a system that gives massive tax breaks to the rich, while making students to owe considerable amounts on student’s loan because education is not free. Many families also suffer today from huge money owe to insurance companies because someone in the family got sick, and yes, there is still income inequality.
Moreover, the neoliberals such as Gary Becker had a fundamental concern on how to answer the question about the failure of this maleness together with the family constructed nearby it. However, as seen from Cooper’s argument, this concern of neoliberals was mostly on the vast social costs derived from the stable Fordist family collapse with the intention to reinvent the private family as the primary basis of economic security as well as the welfare state. Cooper’s further argues that the family life is destructive by neoliberalism as it encourages employees to be of low drag. Cooper’s contends that the most important social unit of neoliberalism is not the individual but the family in continuous crisis. From her argument, she gave out the postwar Fordist family wage which was sufficient to support the single parent family working as a mechanism for the normalization of gender and sexual relationships, and for this reason, sees no reason to lament its demise.
According to my understanding, I agree with the writer of the book as it shows how moral conservatism together with liberalism come together to make capital’s double movement, a movement that makes wealthy families richer and needy families poorer. According to Cooper, the Charity Organization Society (COS) was developed in the 19th century as a pro-business think-tank, it aimed for the prevention of welfare distribution by the government as well as poor-relief, but instead provide business and charities the job of distinguishing between the deserving and undeserving poor. Subsequently, government responsibility was replaced by the fund, so the wealthy can be in a position to trickle tiny amounts of their wealth to the poor at whim, rather than have the government do it for them via taxation.
The reduction of welfare across Western countries has been in place since the neoliberal period of the 1970s, while the super-rich has gotten substantially richer, and inheritance taxes have been abolished. These people are both renters and inheritors, and they do not have to work a day in their lives. However, they can give off a good appearance by sprinkling a bit of money to a charity. Moreover, neoliberals such as Friedman and Hayek posited the family as part of the individual personality throughout their siege on the welfare state. According to the rich people, individual rights are also family rights, and for the unfortunate, personal responsibility is a too special familial obligation, and people are to look after themselves, rather than seek help from the state.
Cooper, M. (2017). Family values: Between neoliberalism and the new social conservatism.
Green, L., & Clarke, K. (2016). Social policy for social work: Placing social work in its wider context.