New Special Issue of Studies in the Maternal, January 2013
Austerity Parenting: new economies of parent-citizenship
Guest editors: Tracey Jensen (University of Newcastle) and Imogen Tyler (Lancaster University)
Parents have long been a significant economic category for policymakers, governments, employers, social workers and public health officials, requiring answers to difficult questions around value, labour, care and responsibility. In the current global economic crisis and recession, many governments are implementing radically restructured welfare support systems, reducing public spending on a range of services and condensing public sector workforces. Several budget analyses have already demonstrated that women (and more specifically, mothers) are set to lose out disproportionately as these changes are implemented. At the same time, many government administrations (particularly the current Coalition government in the UK) have expressed their belief that ‘good parenting’ can compensate for economic disadvantage: in the UK this forms part of a large scale movement to replace significant parts of the Welfare State with forms of volunteerism and private enterprise. Some ministers have even suggested that austerity economics might represent a chance for parents to reconnect with their parenting, with profound future social benefit. In this context, the promotion of ‘good parenting’ is being newly envisioned as an economic opportunity, through which the current public `squandering` of resources on families can be transformed into an invitation that asks ‘parent-citizens’ to effect social and economic renewal for themselves. We are interested in interrogating the double-bind of the new economies of parenting, whereby being a parent makes one more vulnerable to the forms of economic austerity, whilst at the same time parents are being held more accountable than ever for the social (im)mobility of themselves and their children.
Is there a new landscape of parent-citizen responsibility – and how does this relate to the disbanding and dissolution of various public services? What will be the social and economic impact of these shifts to volunteerism and private enterprise on family life? What ‘counts’ and is valued in the new economy of parent-citizenship? Should parenting be publicly recognized as ‘work’? What are the state’s economic obligations to parents? How might policy respond to the gender pay gap, which is principally experienced by mothers? Why are we witnessing an intensification of parent governance, and parent-blame, in neoliberal times?
This special issue of Studies in the Maternal explores new directions (and old tensions) in the complex relationships between parenting, citizenship, social policy and cultural and economic value.