Rigid social and economic forces, not the absence of family values, threaten a vibrant family and work life for all Americans, New York University sociologist Kathleen Gerson concludes in her new book, The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America (Oxford University Press). Gerson’s work also observes that while the current recession has produced significant economic uncertainty in the United States, underlying these circumstances are deep-seated social and cultural, as well as economic, shifts that have been building for decades.
Despite the entrance of women into the workforce and the blurring of once clearly defined gender boundaries, men and women live in a world where the demands of balancing parenting and work, autonomy and commitment, time and money are left largely unresolved. In The Unfinished Revolution, Gerson finds that while an overwhelming majority of young men and women want-and need-more flexible and egalitarian forms of working and caretaking if they are to successfully blend love and work in the 21st century, today’s social and economic realities remain based on traditional-and now obsolete-distinctions between breadwinning and caretaking.
This “equity vacuum” has consequences, Gerson concludes, with men and women developing conflicting strategies-women stressing self-reliance and men seeking a new traditionalism. She argues that whether one decides to give in to traditionally imbalanced relationships or to avoid marriage completely, these approaches are second-best responses-not personal preferences or inherent attributes.
Gerson’s previous works include: The Time Divide: Work, Family, and Gender Inequality, a co-authored volume; No Man’s Land: Men’s Changing Commitments to Family and Work; and Hard Choices: How Women Decide About Work, Career, and Motherhood.