In this interview for the podcast Who Makes Cents?, Melinda Cooper discusses her book, Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservative. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to listen to the full episode. An excerpt appears below.
“Q: You argue that even though we often see neoliberalism being at odds with tradition and the family, neoliberal politics actually rely on ideas about the family in crisis in order to operate. What do you mean by this?
A: There is really a pivotal decade to me, and that is the 1970s. I think this is the period where a certain kind of bipartisan consensus around the new deal social state, even a certain kind of consensus around the great society expansion of welfare, collapsed, and you get this incredible reshuffling of political alliances and political movements. It can all be read through narratives around the crisis or the so called crisis of inflation or stagflation, and an argument that I’m putting forward is that you can’t read this phenomenon of inflation purely in monetary or macroeconomic terms. It was also understood by the political actors and commentators of the time as somehow symptomatic of the crisis of the family—a crisis of the sexual and gender relationship. For them it followed that if you were going to resolve the crisis of inflation, you would also need to resolve the crisis of the family. I think this is where neoliberal and neoconservatives found a way of working together despite all their differences. They were in agreement essentially that inflation was symptomatic of moral crisis, and that the family would need to be reconstituted in some form.”