No Exit

No Exit : What Parents Owe Their Children and What Society Owes Parents

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Having a child, it has been said, is the greatest risk one can take. Marriages may come and go but parenthood endures. There is simply no escape--no exit--from the emotional and practical responsibilities of parenting. Nor should there be. While certain questions swirling around children--What constitutes a "good" parent? What is the role of the state in ensuring the welfare of the child?--are endlessly debated, consistency and continuity of care incontrovertibly play a foundational role in the developmental years of a child's life. Children, everyone agrees, need strong, reliable parenting. Parenting today, however, also involves something else: unprecedented economic peril. Over time, our society's demands on parents have skyrocketed, while the economic rewards of child-rearing have diminished. Once, children provided financial benefit, as workers on the farm and as security in old age. For today's parents, however, having a child is a one-way obligation, one which narrows paths and saps resources. Much of the economic burden falls on mothers, who work less, earn less, and achieve less than their childless peers. Low-income parents often struggle day-to-day to care for their children, hold down a job, and somehow find decent but affordable child care. Parents with severely ill or disabled children may find the course especially precarious. In order to create a more secure world for children and their parents, Anne Alstott argues, we must fundamentally change the way we think about parents' obligations to children--and about society's obligations to parents. Drawing on the same innovative thinking that propelled her and Bruce Ackerman's influential work The Stakeholder Society, Alstott proposes a solution both pragmatic and controversial. She outlines two unsentimental proposals intended to improve parents' economic options while respecting every individual's own choices about how best to combine paid work and child-rearing. Rejecting both state paternalism and easy libertarianism, Alstott's proposals are bold and unapologetic in their implications. At the heart of No Exit lie two basic beliefs: For the good of all, there should be no opt-out clause from parenting. And yet child-rearing should be a life stage, not a life sentence. Take care of your child, Alstott demands, and we-the societal we-will in turn take care of you. In this fearless, compassionate book, she shows us more

Product details

  • Hardback | 266 pages
  • 156.5 x 241.8 x 24.4mm | 530.71g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 4 figures and tables
  • 0195162366
  • 9780195162363

Review quote

"Anne Alstott makes the case for state support of families by examining the well-being of caretakers rather than dependents. She argues that society imposes a No Exit obligation on caretakers, and it is the increased vulnerability of caretakers flowing from that obligation that provides the foundation for the analysis. Alstott's theoretical focus on the loss of caretaker autonomy is novel and thought provoking.... this is a challenging argument and the ideas are radical.... No Exit should open up a useful dialogue."--Perspectives on Politics"Is having children just another peculiar taste, like hang-gliding or world travel? Anne Alstott's important new book explains why not. Alstott brings much-needed clarity to the debate over what society owes to parents. Her policy analysis and proposals will be controversial, but no one involved in the care work debate should skip this book."--Joan Williams, author of Unbending Gender and Director of the Program on WorkLife Law, American University"Anne Alstott provides a thought-provoking and innovative response to one of the enduring questions for a liberal society: How to reconcile a commitment to individual autonomy with the urgent need to require that our children be nourished and cared for? Alstott persuasively describes and defends a "no exit rule" for caretakers, but then argues that the government has a corresponding responsibility to provide opportunities for parents and other caretakers. She details a public system of caretaker resource accounts and life-planning insurance designed to ensure that caretakers retain meaningful life opportunities despite their sacrifices. This book will spark spirited discussion throughout the academy, as well as among policymakers who will find in No Exit a concrete reform agenda."--Elizabeth Garrett, Professor of Law, University of Southern California"Alstott succeeds in making an extremely compelling case: public policy can do a much better job rewarding and supporting modern day mothers and fathers who provide indispensable care for children. A powerful and timely book."--Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Creating A Lifeshow more

About Anne L. Alstott

Anne L. Alstott is a Professor of Law at Yale University. Prior to her work at Yale, she worked as a lawyer for the U.S. Treasury Department and for a Wall Street law firm. She has written numerous articles on social welfare policy and tax policy, and is co-author with Bruce Ackerman of The Stakeholder more

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