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This article reports on the findings and policy implications of a UK study that used both qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate mothers' decision-making with respect to the interlinked issues of the care of their pre-school children and their own employment. Mothers were found to have both internal and external constraints on their decisions. In the three areas of finances, childcare and working time, both personal identities and external circumstances limited mothers' choices. However, neither external circumstances nor identities were fixed. Behaviour and identities were therefore adjusted to each other, giving rise to feedback effects at both the individual and the social level.
While the constraints of identity limit the direct effectiveness of some policies, the long-term effectiveness of others may be enhanced by positive feedback arising from attitudes changing along with behaviour. A ‘policy multiplier’ is defined as the ratio of such indirect to direct effects. This is likely to be greater for enabling policies that lift existing constraints and enable choices that were previously not available, than for coercive policies that impose new constraints on behaviour. The article examines the implications of such feedback effects for developing policy that expands the choices available to mothers in the short term, reduces the costs of motherhood, and meets the government's long-term objectives of reducing child poverty and increasing employment.
In this chapter we shall be exploring one of Marx's most important concepts, that of reproduction. We shall look at the ways in which he did use it and also consider the reasons why he did not use it in some other ways. It may seem strange to spend so much time on what Marx (and Engels) did not do, but considering this omission and the reasons for it may throw light on some fundamental features of Marx's method. In particular, it should help us understand what underlies his materialist conception of history and assess the feminists' basic criticism: that its concentration on production rather than human reproduction means that it is not adequate to the task of explaining gender differences in society and understanding the history of struggle over them.
The plan of the chapter is as follows: First we shall examine Marx's use of the term reproduction to refer to the reproduction of whole social systems, in particular, their class structure. Then we shall consider whether accounts of how social systems reproduce themselves are complete if they do not include human reproduction, the way that people within such systems are born and raised to occupy particular class and gender positions. After this, we shall look at what Marx and Engels had to say about human reproduction and what significance they gave to the consideration of its social forms in their historical analysis. We shall find that their record on this matter is ambivalent - they seem to give human reproduction more importance in describing their historical method than in their actual analyses - and we shall explore why this should have happened. Finally, we shall look at some directions in which work that stays within the Marxist tradition but accords human reproduction more importance might go.
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