Thursday, April 25, 2013

Muller Capitalism (6)

Jerry Z Muller discuses the impact of capitalism on the roles of men and women.

One crucial impact of the rise of the postindustrial economy has been on the status and roles of men and women. Men’s relative advantage in the preindustrial and industrial economies rested in large part on their greater physical strength—something now ever less in demand. Women, in contrast, whether by biological disposition or socialisation, have had a relative advantage in human skills and emotional intelligence, which have now become increasingly more important in an economy more orientated to human services than to the production of material objects. The proportion of the economy in which women could participate has expanded and their labour has become more valuable—meaning that time spent at home now comes at the expense of lucrative possibilities in the paid work force.

The redeployment of female labour from the household has been made possible in part by the existence of new commodities that cut down on necessary household labour time (such as washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, water heaters, vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens). The greater time devoted to market activity, in turn, has given rise to new demand for household-orientated consumer goods that require less labour (such as packaged and prepared food) and the expansion of restaurant and fast-food eating. And it has led to the commodification of care, as the young , the elderly and the infirm are increasing looked after not by relatives but by paid minders.

As the economy has passed from an industrial economy to a postindustrial service and information economy, women have joined men in attaining recognition through paid work, and the industrious couple today is more likely to be made of peers, with more equal levels of education and comparable elves of economic achievement—a process termed “assertive mating”.

Given the family’s role as an incubator of human capital, such trends have had important spillover effects in inequality.

A family with two professional parents has a huge advantage over a family with one or two unskilled parents.

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