Social Reproduction and the City
Welfare Reform, Child Care, and Resistance in Neoliberal New York
The transformation of child care after welfare reform in New York City and the struggle against that transformation is a largely untold story. In the decade following welfare reform, despite increases in child care funding, there was little growth in New York’s unionized, center-based child care system and no attempt to make this system more responsive to the needs of working mothers. As the city delivered child care services “on the cheap,” relying on non-union home child care providers, welfare rights organizations, community legal clinics, child care advocates, low-income community groups, activist mothers, and labor unions organized to demand fair solutions to the child care crisis that addressed poor single mothers’ need for quality, affordable child care as well as child care providers’ need for decent work and pay. Social Reproduction and the City tells this story, linking welfare reform to feminist research and activism around the “crisis of care,” social reproduction, and the neoliberal city.
At a theoretical level, Simon Black’s history of this era presents a feminist political economy of the urban welfare regime, applying a social reproduction lens to processes of urban neoliberalization and an urban lens to feminist analyses of welfare state restructuring and resistance. Feminist political economy and feminist welfare state scholarship have not focused on the urban as a scale of analysis, and critical approaches to urban neoliberalism often fail to address questions of social reproduction. To address these unexplored areas, Black unpacks the urban as a contested site of welfare state restructuring and examines the escalating crisis in social reproduction. He lays bare the aftermath of welfare reform on child care and the resistance to policies that deepened race, class, and gender inequities.
“Once you look at the empirical realities-and Simon Black knows the realities-there is a glaring contradiction in the contemporary North American welfare state system between its reliance on workfare-style programs on the one hand and its near-neglect of childcare provisions for the families swept into these programs on the other hand. Black exposes and explains the empirical realities of these policies and then subjects them to a brilliant theoretical analysis. A fine book that casts light on a major feature of contemporary welfare policy.”
“This wonderful, brilliant and innovative book exposes the impacts of neoliberal policies on the lives of poor and working class people, providing a detailed ethnographic study of welfare and child care at the municipal level and offering a sophisticated theoretical engagement with social reproduction and feminist political economy."