Earning and Caring. (Book Reviews/Comptes Rendus)

By Swenson, Don | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Earning and Caring. (Book Reviews/Comptes Rendus)


Swenson, Don, Canadian Journal of Sociology


Rod Beaujot, Earning and Caring. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2000,416 pp.

In the social science of the family in general and the sociology of the family in particular, this text is like dew from above and a fresh breeze arising from the horizon. Beaujot has presented a document of high calibre, articulate language, meticulous mining of data and published works, and an expression of concern for families in Canada. He does this with a careful eye that both transcends and penetrates ideological lenses that so frequently colour Canadian sociology of the family.

The organization of the text is well structured. The author begins with a presentation of his key thesis: "The tension between caring and earning provides a useful entry point for a study of contemporary family life and family policy. Earning and caring are the key activities of families, in effect the very basis for family" (p. 24). He then presents, in the following order, chapters on the family and work, gender, changing families, paid work and family income, unpaid work and the division of productive activities, fertility, children and youth, and policy dimensions.

Within this structure, especially noteworthy contributions include: using the central and critical concepts of earning and caring with much finesse; calling forth those who are dissatisfied with the distinction between the private (caring) and the public (earning); the presence of an extensive analysis of the vitality of the role of gender both in families and in the economy; the link between the micro and the macro; a remarkable ability to construct a common, unified story using such a wide variety of sources; and the use of many important and sensitizing concepts such as: family strategies, stages of gender equality, the life course, instrumental and expressive functions, life trajectories, and unique and special needs of children.

Beaujot is also to be commended to be inclusive in his disciplinary terrains such as: biology, socio-biology, psychology, economics, social demography, sociology and social psychology. He also is not adverse to use several theoretical perspectives to argue for the need to unite earning and caring phenomena in the lives of Canadians. These perspectives include: feminism, political economy, structural functionalism (at least by way of implication) and exchange theory.

Further, the author attempts to challenge the myopia of the classical founders of sociology (Marx, Durkheim and Weber) whose foci were on the public and macro dimensions of society. He adds to this list Parsons and Becker. This work is not to concentrate on the family to the detriment of the importance of the public but, rather a perspective that unites both the private and the public. He writes: "The interplay of earning and caring feeds into a number of important sociological questions. Sociology studies the organization of economic activity and the socialization of children as key considerations in the continuity, change and differentiation of societies. In effect, both economic production and social reproduction are essential to the survival of any society" (p.

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