A brilliant approach to the economics of caregiving and feminized work, from the MacArthur Award-winning economist
"Important and illuminating . . . an outstandingly provocative book about the economics of care and reciprocity." --Emma Rothschild, The New York Times Book Review
Lost in perpetually controversial conversations about "family values" is an examination of the economic forces that are exploding family life and limiting the caregiving that families can provide. As leading feminist economist Nancy Folbre notes, every society must confront the problem of balancing self-interested pursuits with care for others--including children, the elderly, and the infirm. Historically, most societies enjoyed an increased supply of care by maintaining strict limits on women's freedom. But as these limits have happily and inevitably given way, there are many consequences for those who still need care.
Using the image of "the invisible heart" to evoke the forces of compassion that must temper the forces of self-interest, Folbre argues in her classic book that if we don't establish a new set of rules defining our mutual responsibilities for caregiving, the penalties suffered by the needy--our very families--will increase. Intensified economic competition may drive altruism and families out of business. The COVID-19 pandemic, too, has torn apart the tenuous, fragile web that makes care work possible in our society.
Nancy Folbre writes in a lively, personal style and develops a distinctive approach to the economics of care. Unlike others who praise family values, Folbre acknowledges the complicated relationship between women and altruism. The Invisible Heart offers powerful feminist approaches to such policy issues as welfare reform, school finance, and progressive taxation, and it confronts the challenges of globalization, outlining strategies for developing an economic system that rewards both individual achievement and care for others.
About the Author
Nancy Folbre, a MacArthur Fellow, is professor emerita of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is the the author of "The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values" and "Saving State U: Why We Must Fix Public Higher Education"; a co-author, with Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, James Heintz, and the Center for Popular Economics, of "Field Guide to the U.S. Economy"; and a co-author, with Randy Albelda, of "The War on the Poor: A Defense Manual," all published by The New Press. Her academic books include "For Love and Money: Care Provision in the U.S." and "Greed, Lust, and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas." She is a regular contributor to the "New York Times" s Economix blog.