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Family Values : Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism (Hardcover) (Melinda Cooper)
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This book examines the intertwined histories of neoliberalism and new social conservatism -- from neoconservatism per se to the religious right and communitarianism -- in the recent political history of America. It argues that this remarkable political alliance was enabled by a shared conviction that the family should serve as the primary locus of welfare. Accordingly neoliberals and social conservatives converged on the idea that the poor law tradition of family responsibility would need to be reinvented as a comprehensive alternative to the mid-twentieth century welfare state. In a series of case studies ranging from Clinton's welfare reform to the AIDS epidemic, and from same-sex marriage to the student loan market, Cooper shows how the imperative of family responsibility was simultaneously federalized in welfare law and refashioned in the idiom of expanding household debt. As cuts to health, education and welfare budgets transferred deficit spending from the state to the household, the private debt obligations of family were reinvigorated as the ideal source of economic security. Despite their differences, neoliberals and new social conservatives were in agreement that the economic and moral bonds of family needed to be encouraged -- and at the limit enforced -- as a necessary counterpart to market freedom.
Combining a sharp theoretical sensibility with close attention to social, political and economic history, Cooper challenges received wisdom about the crisis of the 1970s -- the historical turning point that led to the Reagan revolution -- and established theoretical accounts of neoliberalism. In this retelling of our near past, Reagan's term as Governor of California emerges as a dark precursor to the monumental social policy shifts of the late twentieth century, serving as a laboratory for punitive welfare reform, the revival of state poor laws and the privatization of the public university.