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Invisible Heart


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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.


MacArthur Award winner Folbre (economics, Univ. of Massachusetts) specializes in the interaction of feminist theory and political economy. In this readable, well-documented, and thought-provoking work, she discusses the invisible heart of caring labor, which is not easily put in terms of dollars. She explains how this concept relates to Adam Smith's notion of the invisible hand with regard to supply and demand and the pursuit of self-interests. For centuries, women provided care for free in the home. Now, with more of them working outside the home, what used to be a priority for them is in the hands of institutions that do not obtain the funding priorities other endeavors have in the global economy. The ability to provide personal and loving care is being eroded. Folbre discusses how government, society, and employers can look at economic theory and practice to prioritize what individuals and institutions can do for the care of children, the sick, and the elderly. A good choice for academic and large public libraries.DSteven J. Mayover, formerly with the Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

As the "invisible hand" of the free market and the competitive individualism it engenders increasingly dominate public life, contends UMass-Amherst economist and MacArthur fellow Folbre (Who Pays for the Kids?), we risk losing the other necessary component of a healthy society: "the invisible heart," a care system for children, the aged and the infirm. The market does not provide such support, and in the prescribed labor divisions of old, women fulfilled this need for little or no recompense. But now that women have begun to shuck off this enforced role, where, asks Folbre, will care come from? In seeking an answer, she delivers an incisive, informed social critique. Government, she contends, provides a bureaucratic hodgepodge of programs that serves few well and punishes the poor. Regressive taxation assures that some will be able to afford more care than others; unequal school funding guarantees some will become better educated than others. Corporations neglect social responsibilities in favor of the bottom line. In the end, Folbre concludes, we are all responsible for one another, but only radical changes in how we live and work democratic control of the economy, a dramatic redistribution of wealth and so on will strengthen the ethic of solidarity and reciprocity that is a prerequisite for such care. Folbre makes an important contribution to the discussion of what our society could be, and her humor and insight elevate her book above mere political diatribe. (Apr. 1) Forecast: Folbre's progressive/feminist response to "compassionate conservatism" should spark lively debate and sales. This is perfect for the sociology or cultural crit classroom and will also appeal to fans of fellow MacArthur recipient Mike Davis (Prisoners of the American Dream). Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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