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Spring 2024


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New in London Review of Books
Against Responsibility

In a new review for the London Review of Books, William Davies discusses Melinda Cooper’s Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism. Click here to learn more about the book. Click on the button to the left to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:

“In her new book, Melinda Cooper argues that the family has been pivotal in the reform of capitalism since the early 1970s, but that this fact has been disguised by the slipperiness of conservative rhetoric. The assumption that ‘neoliberalism’, with its basis in an abstract idea of an atomised, calculating individual, and ‘neoconservatism’, which is focused on the preservation of tradition and moral rectitude, must be in tension with each other means that too little scholarly attention has been paid to the family – an institution that these parallel traditions both enthusiastically defend. What is less excusable, in Cooper’s view, is that critiques of neoliberalism inspired by Karl Polanyi have looked to the patriarchal family as a source of resistance to the free market, advocating a social democratic model inspired by 1950s Keynesianism in which traditional gender roles regarding duty and care could prosper, unthreatened by market forces. Cooper identifies several left-wing sociologists, such as Wolfgang Streeck and Luc Boltanski, who she believes have fallen into this trap by treating the individualism of the 1960s as the forerunner to the marketisation of the 1980s. In Britain, political movements such as Blue Labour put forward a similar argument. This kind of thinking is oblivious of the fact that neoliberal policies of privatisation and deregulation have gone hand in hand with socially conservative efforts to treat dependency and care as wholly family matters.”