Women's Changing Relations to the State and Citizenship: Caring and Intergenerational Relations in Globalizing Western Democracies *

Article excerpt

SOCIOLOGICAL DISCUSSIONS OF WOMEN'S changing relations to the state take place in three distinct literatures. The first is the large literature on women and the welfare state (Bakker, 1996; Benoit, 2000; Daly, 2000; Fraser, 1987; Knijin and Kremer, 1997; Lewis, 1997; O'Connor, Orloff and Shaver, 1999; Rice and Prince, 2000). Central themes include: the necessity for women of combining paid work with unpaid work at home and in communities (Armstrong and Armstrong, 2002; O'Connor, Orloff and Shaver, 1999), the structuring and restructuring of gendered relations and identities by the welfare state (Daly, 2000; Orloff, 1993; 1997), and diminishing state support for gender equity (see Brodsky and Day, 1998; Boyd and McDaniel, 1996). Key concerns in this literature are the erosion of women's individual and collective rights by multiple and conflicting demands placed on women and the loss of state investment in redistributive justice or diminished funding for women's social action groups. The second literature, newe r and thinner, focusses on citizenship. It is citizenship as process (Turner, 2001: 192), as exclusionary/inclusionary, as building and reconfiguring of entitlements and opportunities (Brodie, 1996), rather than the more static concern with institutionalized political rights. Themes emerging here are that traditional approaches to citizenship are not gender-neutral, thereby compromising women's social opportunities (see Benoit, 2000; Brodie, 1996; 1997; O'Connor, Orloff and Shaver, 1999; Voet, 1998), and that routes to effective citizenship, i.e., paid work, military participation, or being part of households/families, have been transformed in recent years by economic changes, technologies, and globalization, which particularly impact on women.

The nascent but growing literature on social cohesion is the third place where women's changing relations to the state are engaged (Jenson, 1998; OECD, 1997b; Stanley, 2002). This concept has recently become recognized as pivotal in sociology and in policy studies (Bernard, 1999; OECD, 1997b; Roche, 2000; Silver, 1998; Walby, 2000). The themes emergent here are that with rapid economic and technological changes and globalization, new social schisms have opened, as well as deepening marginalization. Key concerns are the ways in which relationality and connectedness are changing and the implications for civil society.

Contradictions and analytical openings for exploration of women's changing relations to states and to citizenship are created in superimposing the key themes and concerns of these disparate literatures. Three of these provide the basis for this analysis: 1) the degree to which the state can be protector and investor in women's rights or gains, if the state itself is shrinking and women's claims to citizenship rights per se or social welfare state entitlements matter less; 2) the contradiction between the gendered dismantling of welfare states and women's dramatic increases in paid work at the same time as more unpaid work is expected; and 3) the degree to which the deepening marginalization of women parallels growing concerns about social cohesion.

This article reflects on these contradictions along two previously underconceptualized vectors of contemporary social change: caring (care-giving and care receiving) and intergenerational relations. Specifically considered are the fragility of care in globalizing democracies and diminishing welfare states, and changes in socio-economic relations and structures among generations, in families and in societies, and how these texture women's changing relations to the state. Both are considered comparatively across select globalizing western democracies.

Caring and Intergenerational Relations as Core

Caring and intergenerational relations cut to the core processes of globalization and how women's relations to states are transforming. …