Compassion and Coalitions: A Review of Reshaping the Work Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams
28 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 2011
Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams is illuminating, intellectually challenging, and insightful. It is not, however, a typical law professor book. Neither academic inquiry nor policy analysis (although it contains elements of both), Reshaping the Work-Family Debate is more of a manifesto. Williams seeks measurable and meaningful change in the family and work lives of Americans, even if that change is imperfect or incomplete, and she sees theoretical or ideological rigidity as one obstacle to such change.
Williams believes that coalition-building is essential to addressing the work family challenges she identifies. Although she has a lengthy list of policy proposals, she spends very little time in this book making the case for them because she believes that in our current political climate, enactment of such policies is impossible. So she wants to change that climate, by urging women to recruit men and progressive elites to make common cause with the white working class.
This review evaluates and describes Williams' insights and proposed strategies for coalition-building. But it also discusses some gaps in Williams’ analysis, such as her lack of focus on race and on single parents. These gaps are ripe for future work by Williams and by the many activists and academics she inspires.
Keywords: work family, progressive politics, working class, feminism
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