Synopses & Reviews
In this bold new book, Linda McClain offers a liberal and feminist theory of the relationships between family life and politics--a topic dominated by conservative thinkers. McClain agrees that stable family lives are vital to forming persons into capable, responsible, self-governing citizens. But what are the public values at stake when we think about families, and what sorts of families should government recognize and promote?
Arguing that family life helps create the virtues and character required for citizenship, McClain shows that the connection between family self-government and democratic self-government does not require the deep-laid gender inequality that has historically accompanied it. Examining controversial issues in family law and policy--among them, the governmental promotion of heterosexual marriage and the denial of marriage to same-sex couples, the regulation of family life through welfare policy, and constitutional rights to reproductive freedom--McClain argues for a political theory of the family that embraces equality, defends rights as facilitating responsibility, and supports families in ways that respect men's and women's capacities for self-government.
In this elegant and tightly reasoned book, Linda McClain argues that the family--though not necessarily traditional marriage--is central to the 'formative project' of fostering key civic virtues: capacity, equality, and responsibility. In a series of different situations she considers what might be an optimal balance among governmental, social, and family responsibilities for shaping good citizens. The Place of Families is sure to influence many heated debates, in courts and legislatures as well as journals, about the complex relationships between families and public life. Martha Fineman, author of < i=""> The Autonomy Myth: A Theory of Dependency <>
For those who were wondering, liberal feminism is alive and well in the adept hands of legal and political theorist, Linda McClain. In this nuanced, persuasively argued, and utterly relevant work, McClain takes up where earlier liberal feminists such as Susan Moller Okin left off by addressing head-on the question of how, in a diverse, liberal polity the state should be involved in securing equality without curtailing individual freedom. In this, she is engaged in no less of a project than constructing the future of liberalism. In this, both the virtues and the potential vices of this future are evident...McClain crafts a liberal feminist framework that goes a long way in balancing these commitments. The power of her framework is evident as she considers an array of some of the most contentious issues in American politics today...The Place of Families is an impressive exercise in political philosophy, legal theory, and present-day politics. In it, McClain moves liberalism forward through critical engagement with the questions and concerns of feminism. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the theory and practices of families and politics in contemporary liberal democracies. Tamara Metz
The Place of Families is the most careful and comprehensive defense to date of the progressive liberal feminist position on the civic role of families. Those who agree with the thesis of this book will find powerful evidence for their case, and those who disagree will have to come to grips with it. William A. Galston, Saul Stern Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
Linda McClain has written an immensely valuable book that combines philosophical depth with up-to-the-moment policy analysis. Taking on many of the most difficult and contentious issues in family law and public policy today, including same-sex marriage, welfare reform, abortion, and sex education, McClain grounds her discussions in a commitment to both liberalism's respect for individual liberty and feminism's insistence on gender equality. Her meticulous scholarship, even-handed consideration of opposing viewpoints, and clear and accessible writing make The Place of Families a "must read" for anyone interested in the future of American families and family law. Molly Shanley, Professor of Political Science, Vassar College
A most compelling and novel study of the rights and responsibilities of the family, the community of which it is a constitutive part, and the government. A joy for legal scholars and social scientists and many others. Amitai Etzioni, author of < i=""> The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society <>
McClain's argument is a powerful one. Building on Susan Moller Okin's pathbreaking (1989) insights on gender, justice, and the family, she argues that the good society, if it is to remain liberal, must promote gender equality within families and equality among children irrespective of the family form that brought them into existence...[McClain] seeks to enrich the liberal account by adding a feminist sensibility at a time when conservatives identify feminism at the root of what they see as family decline. She admirably makes the case that the idea of feminist family values need not be either radical or an oxymoron. Instead, she argues that liberal democracies necessarily depend on fostering individual capacity, securing equality, and promoting the circumstances that make acceptance of individual responsibility possible. Politics and Ethics Review
Arguing that family life helps create the virtues and character required for citizenship, McClain shows that the connection between family self-government and democratic self-government does not require the deep-laid gender inequality that has historically accompanied it. McClain argues for a political theory of the family that embraces equality, defends rights as facilitating responsibility, and supports families in ways that respect men's and women's capacities for self-government.
About the Author
Linda C. McClain is Professor of Law and Paul M. Siskind Research Scholar at Boston University School of Law.
Boston University School of Law
Table of Contents
Part I. FosteringCapacity
2. The Place of Families andGovernment in a Formative Project
3. Families as "Seedbedsof Civic Virtue"?
4. Care, Families, and Self-Government:Rewriting the Social Contract
Part II.Fostering Equality
5. Marriage and SocialHealth: Marriage Promotion, Marriage (E)quality, and WelfareReform
6. Equality among Families: Recognizing Same-SexMarriage
7. Equality aAmong Families: Beyond Marriage?
Part III. FosteringResponsibility
8. Rights,(Ir)responsibility, and Reproduction
9. Struggles overTeaching Sexual and Reproductive Responsibility: Beyond "Abstinence-Only" and Women asGatekeepers