Arnlaug Leira, Working Parents and the Welfare State: Family Change and Policy Reform in Scandinavia.
Lynne Haney, Inventing the Needy: Gender and the Politics of Welfare in Hungary. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. $24.95 papercover.
Two recent books, Haney's Inventing the Needy and Leira's Working Parents and the Welfare State grapple with what both authors see as a transformation of the welfare state in response to the influx of women, specifically mothers, into the paid labor market. These works emerge against the backdrop of increased labor force participation of mothers with young children in most OECD countries; in the U.S. for example, more than 60% of all mothers work at least part-time outside the home. With a general decline in rates of marriage and fertility, and an increasing rate of divorce, studies which examine the state's ability to support working families are timely. Where the focus of Inventing the Needy is the Hungarian welfare state from 1948 to the present, Working Parents is confined mainly to developments in the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) during the 1990s. Both Haney and Leira create a tripartite model explaining the transformation of their respective welfare state, although Leira's work is both more theoretical and analytic. However, it is ultimately their views on gender division and stratification that unite these two works.
Haney's exhaustive treatise begins with a premise that the essential characteristics of the Hungarian welfare state have morphed three times during a 50 year period, from a regime type she terms Welfare Society (1948-1968) to a Maternalistic model (1968-1985) and final to a Liberal incarnation (1985-1996). The typology was crafted by the author after bringing together an impressive range of archival data, interviews and participant observation research. Inventing the Needy is divided into three sections which mirror the classifications described above, and is full of Hungarian terms and names which are simultaneously authenticating and distracting. In Part 1 the author explores the contours Hungarian welfare state after its 'inclusion" in the Soviet Bloc using the lens of gender division and stratification. Haney traces in great detail the development of the Hungarian welfare state with particular emphasis on the role of caseworkers who, by most standards, seem positively intrusive. The author supplies numerous examples of interactions between caseworkers and clients collected primarily from case files that demonstrate the "helping hand" of the state. The author goes on to argue that despite inherent "tensions" of the socialist regime, the Welfare Society was ultimately positive, providing citizens with an increased bounty of resources and (inadvertently) empowering clients by allowing them to "harness the state's concern with public and private relations to secure their own well-being" (p.64). The positive interpretation of intrusive socialist policies vis-a-vis women by Haney's own admission is well outside of feminist and non-feminist scholarship alike. Without concern for the paternalism and social control embedded in the policies and practices of the period, Haney defends her conceptualization much as the socialists did, buttressed by her own view that the expansive nature of the intrusion of the state in family life empowered women and created a broad arsenal of ways for women to "protect themselves in everyday life" (p. 88)--protection from what, becomes clearer in the second part of the book.
The second section of the book describes the emergence of the Maternalistic state in the late 1960s which was grounded in psychological research findings surrounding the importance of the mother-child relationship--a view toward which Haney is rather unsympathetic. Haney cites numerous examples of the "attack" (p. 99) on the previous welfare state--the introduction of a three-year paid maternity leave and family allowances, the advent of Child Guidance Centers to assist with issues pertaining to child development. Along with these reforms, which Haney characterizes rather negatively, came new practices such as protective labor legislation and "domesticity" and "personality" tests which the author views as significantly more intrusive and detrimental than the practices of the previous welfare regime. Now employing a radical feminist lens, the author portrays these developments as undesirable--where the Welfare Society promoted gender equality and demanded that men compensate for their wives inability to perform household duties due to "full employment" requirements, the Maternalistic state's welfare apparatus treated women (as caretakers of children) differently by creating policy that encouraged women to stay-at-home and raise children.
While it is clear that neither incarnation of the welfare state constructed by the author is attractive due to high levels of social control, it is difficult (absent a radical feminist bent) to view one as significantly better or worse than another. Both iterations sent caseworker's into individuals homes to make determinations about essential components of family life. In time, the author claims, the Maternalistic State gave way to a model in which eligibility was linked to need. While the fall of communism in 1989 begins the final section of the book, the author notes an increase in class division began in the 1970s, portending the development of the Liberal Welfare State. Predictably, the author views the development as further eroding women's "practical maneuverability" since female clients "now found it impossible to convince welfare workers to mediate power relations in their homes, to scold abusive spouses, or to mitigate their own feelings of isolation" (p. 246). While the author characterizes the decreased "maneuverability" as negative, another interpretation might suggest it was inappropriate for adult women to rely on third party strangers to negotiate who takes out the trash. Perhaps the interpretation of "maneuverability" as described demeans, rather than empowers women, relegating them to a role of a helpless individual. While the study is thoughtful, exhaustively-researched and thought-provoking, and would be of interest to professionals in the field of social work as well as scholars with interests in gender studies or Hungary, the author's uneven hand is noticeable and detracts from the work.
Leira's book also deals with the implications of women's paid labor on family life and childcare, although it is steeped in the theoretical tradition of Parsons, Marshall, and Esping-Andersen. From this base, the author seeks to define three "model families"--one where parents engage in "specialization" of the parental roles, typically with a bread-winning father and care-providing mother; a "sequential employment of mothers" typology after the primary child-caring functions are fulfilled; and finally a view of the "shared societal roles". Leira implies that with the instability in modern family the first two models are sustainable for single parent families only with state-sponsored assistance.
Leira sees the social rights of citizenship as more accurately defined as the social rights of wage-earners. This classification plays nicely to Leria's theoretical argument and leads to an analysis that examines policies that she claims place the responsibility for childcare squarely within the domain of the state. The author makes an interesting distinction between the longstanding "right" of the father to "opt-out" of child-caring responsibilities against the equally long-standing tradition of mothers not having a right to exercise. In the final chapters of the book, the author engages in a prototypical feminist analysis concerning three different types of policies--state funded day care, parental leave, and cash benefits for childcare. She concludes that the first two benefits are preferable since they better promote the value of gender equality since it is generally only mothers who elect cash benefits that allow them to opt-out of paid labor. What makes this book interesting is the author's corroboration of the fact that many fewer father's utilize state-sponsored leave, yet the author remains committed to her original thesis that gender balance with respect to caring for children is desirable, if elusive. Disappointingly, the author fails to develop the why of the gender division of childcare--seeming to dismiss outright that many mothers may prefer to be at home with their children rather than sending them to state-sponsored daycare facilities where they are cared for by women (other people's mothers, not fathers!), or that women may be better at performing caring-related functions. These omissions distract from an otherwise strong analytic book that will appeal to those interested in the transformation of the welfare state, family policy, and gender division of labor.
Rebecca A. Van Voorhis
California State University, Hayward
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|Author:||Van Voorhis, Rebecca A.|
|Publication:||Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2003|
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