The Rise and Decline of Patriarchal Systems: An Intersectional Political Economy

Nancy Folbre. Verso, $29.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-78663-295-1
MacArthur Award winner Folbre (Greed, Lust and Gender) examines the historical persistence of gender inequality in this wide-ranging scholarly account. Though an educated, skilled workforce is critical to the common good, Folbre writes, the caretaking and raising of children—labor typically performed by women—has been undervalued in economic systems throughout history. She explores hunter/gatherer, feudal, socialist, and capitalist societies, showing that, at every stage of human development, economic advancement has relied on the work of marginalized, nonpaid groups at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Because the “goods” they produce and maintain are human beings, Folbre writes, care providers cannot rely on individual benefits for their work and have limited bargaining power, which leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. She praises Nordic and northern European countries for “recognizing and rewarding reproductive commitments” by providing paid family leave and universal childcare, examines the political and economic consequences of a birth rate that has fallen below replacement levels in the U.S., and critiques wealthy countries’ reliance on immigrants to provide child and elder care as “a short-run gambit that postpones a more serious reckoning.” Though nonacademic readers may sometimes lose the thread, this careful application of intersectional feminism to economic theory yields ample food for thought. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/07/2020
Release date: 02/02/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Library Binding - 224 pages - 978-1-78663-294-4
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