Women's Work Is Never Done: Comparative Studies in Care-Giving, Employment, and Social Policy Reform

Article excerpt

Women's Work Is Never Done: Comparative Studies in Care-Giving, Employment, and Social Policy Reform. Sylvia Bashevkin. (Ed.) New York: Routledge. 2002. 208 pp. ISBN 0-415-93481-8. $23.95 (paper).

Women's Work Is Never Done is an engaging feminist collection that advances our understanding of how welfare discourses and policies affect women as welfare recipients, caregivers, workers, and citizens. A number of contributions of this solid scholarship are worth mentioning. First, by providing a cross-national analysis of welfare regimes and their influences on women, the authors recognize the dynamic nature of welfare language and practices. Second, although the male-female differences in welfare experiences are well-documented, the contributors examine a diversity of experiences among women depending on their race, class, and age. Finally, throughout the volume the authors draw our attention to construction of citizenship in terms of who "deserves" to be considered a citizen and whether access to citizenship rights should be based on one's needs or one's societal contribution. Collectively, the contributors criticize the Moynihan report's stereotypical portrayal of African American women and contribution to the racialized construction of citizenship; the movement toward conservative family structures, in which women's interests are pushed aside; and the neoliberal practices and moralistic rhetorics of economic self-sufficiency and personal responsibility. A strong feature of the volume is that it offers alternative policy suggestions that could rectify the punitive organization of the current welfare systems and in the long-term advance gender equality.

The book is organized into four sections that allow readers to easily locate topics of interest. In the first section, "Conceptual Issues," Selma Sevenhuijsen, by using the ethic of care, makes care-giving visible in the state-market-family relation triangle. Also by looking at care from a power/conflict perspective, the author recognizes that "care can be debilitating and patronizing, as well as enabling and supportive" (p. 25). In the second section, "Confronting Women's Diversity," the contributing authors bring into focus diversity among women along race, class, and age lines in their experiences in welfare state regimes.

The third section, "Anglo-American Welfare Reform," examines differences and similarities in public discourses and policies on social assistance across a number of Anglo American welfare regimes. Using case study methods, the authors show that in the context of neoliberal economic restructuring, the four Commonwealth countries, with the United States in the vanguard, are shifting more toward marriage-oriented and market-based approaches to welfare that undermine the foundations of expansive social citizenship rights. …