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Spring 2024


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H-Diplo Roundtable XIX
A Discussion of Melinda Cooper’s Family Values

In a roundtable discussion in H-Diplo, Yale University’s Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins presents Melinda Copper’s Family Values. His introduction is followed by discussion points by scholars Kristen Loveland, Andrea Muehlebach, Gabriel N. Rosenberg, and Charlotte Walker-Said, along with an author response from Melinda Cooper. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full discussion. An excerpt appears below.

“Cooper, an Associate Professor in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Sydney, argues that we are mistaken to think that neoliberals “privilege atomized individualism over familiar solidarity, and contractual freedom over inherited status.” On this reading, neoliberals, such as Freedom, Gary Becker, and others, attacked the necessity of the welfare state by claiming that the family was responsible and obligated to provide for health, education, and economic stability. In doing so, and this is the central claim of the book, they revived an American poor law tradition that had been challenged by the New Deal.

For their part, neoconservatives like Kristol and Bell made a direct connection between the faltering welfare state of the 1970s and the hedonistic values of the baby boomer generation. To maintain the Fordist Family wage, they argued, would demand the inculcation and adherence to traditional family values. Although neoliberals and neoconservatives were motivated by different economic and cultural concerns, it was the family, Cooper maintains, that provided the conditions for an overlapping consensus between them. A similar argument is made for why the Religious Right entered into the fray, despite the fact that their concerns were ultimately rooted neither in economics or culture, but theology. A return to traditional family values would make America Christian again. In this way, Cooper is able to provide a convincing account of the driving forces that brought together a rather strange cocktail of a thinkers and ideas.”