USA or Sweden?

Between ‘two worlds’ of father politics represents the USA and Sweden as two ends on an international continuum in ways of thinking about fatherhood. The ‘two worlds’ model locates the decline of patriarchal male-breadwinning fatherhood as a core concern of comparative welfare state and gender studies. It offers historical accounts of the development of ‘father-friendly’ parental leave policies in Sweden and child support enforcement policies in the USA. The book brings together, major debates from child development psychology, ethology, sociology, gender studies and comparative social policy. In this way, the book synthesizes a wide breadth of comparative and inter-disciplinary analysis into a new typology or model for interpreting welfare regime approaches to contemporary fatherhood. It provides comparative analysis for students, scholars and social policy makers in the United States and Nordic countries, the UK, Ireland, Japan, China and the European Union. Overall, the book locates concepts of fatherhood, the decline of patriarchy, shared parenting and the de-commodification of parents as critical to ongoing debates about individualisation, internationalisation and the dawn of post-patriarchal welfare arrangements for the 21st century.

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in Between two worlds of father politics

Chapter one links the decline of patriarchal legitimacy over the course of the 20th century to welfare state expansion. It highlights that chapter one shows that the renaissance of the ‘welfare modelling business’, was in a large part, driven by the growth of gender and feminist analysis in welfare state debates. Chapter one also shows that Nordic feminism historically promoted critical thinking about men’s social-citizenship roles as fathers.

in Between two worlds of father politics
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State-enforced agency

Chapter Two illustrates that the dual predominance of a) pyschological perspectives on father salience to child development and b) sociological perspectives on ‘fatherlessness’ in the USA represented distinct, prominent and paradigmatic features of the American literature. Chapter two charts the ‘invention’ of the cost recovery model of child support by the US welfare regime in 1974, as the template within the English-speaking welfare regimes. In addition, Chapter Two also explains that neo-patriarchal perspectives on fatherhood amplified and flourished under the American neo-liberal and neo-conservative paradigm of combining welfare ‘reform’ with the promotion of marriage under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA, 1996).

in Between two worlds of father politics
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State-supported agency

Chapter three illustrates that the canon of Swedish and Nordic literature on the politicization of fatherhood and the development of father-friendly social policies remained is an expanding field of study. Chapter three pays particular attention to the historical context of parental leave development and to the important roles of Nordic epistemology and government commissions in dismantling patriarchy and promoting gender equality over the course of the 20th century Chapter three also focuses on child support enforcement as an early 20th century enterprise in Sweden, which was roundly rejected from the mid-1970s as being overly stigmatizing towards non-resident fathers, single-mothers and their children. Instead, chapter three shows that Sweden and Norway moved towards principles of joint-custody, shared parenting and individualization of child support payments and housing allowances.

in Between two worlds of father politics
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Full-time breadwinners and part-time fathers

Parental leave; father-friendly social policies; government commissions; de-patriarchalisation; shared parenting; the Stockholm marriages

in Between two worlds of father politics
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‘Vulnerable fathers’, invisible fatherhood

Chapter Five identifies an increase in the significance of fatherhood to Irish social policy debates, particularly those surrounding prosecution through the courts for non-payment of child maintenance payments, the Constitutional recognition of fathers outside marriage and normative concerns with ‘vulnerable fathers’ in Irish family support debates. The analysis reveals that the American model of fatherhood strongly influenced the politicisation of fatherhood in Ireland, and that Irish social policy debates tended to reflect normative academic traditions of avoiding Nordic, and in particular, Swedish welfare and gender ideologies in favour of selective debates concerned with a residua of ‘vulnerable fathers’.

in Between two worlds of father politics

Chapter Six highlights the importance of social dialogue to the social politics of fatherhood in the European Union and the importance of scholarly involvement on bodies such as the European Observatory on National Family Policies, the Confederation of Family Organisations of the European Union, the European Commission Childcare Network, the Network on Leave and Policy Research, the European Union Network of Experts on Family Policy and the European Parliament Quality of Childhood Group. Chapter Six illustrates that the Swedish model was influential on the European Union parental leave directives and on the move in 2009 towards individualization and non-transferability of leave for fathers. Chapter six also illustrates that the EU is a site for contested debates concerning child support and broader issues of political economy, family policy, intersectionality and varieties of capitalism.

in Between two worlds of father politics

Chapter Seven illustrates that social science attention to fatherhood remains under-developed in China and Japan, and when studies did emerge they tended to follow the epistemologies and methodologies of the American school of child development. However, the chapter emphasises key differences whereby Japan is understood to be an East Asian exemplar of a welfare regime that has taken a ‘Nordic turn’ while China is considered to have exacerbated gender inequalities among young people and young married couples trough the One Child Family Planning Policy (1979) and the privatisation of housing. On the other hand, both China and Japan are illustrated to have dismantled Confucian patriarchy in favour of welfare regime development and the social policy regulation of fatherhood. Yet both regimes continue to stigmatise young professional single-women as non-married ‘parasite singles’ (Japan) or ‘left-over women’ (China).

in Between two worlds of father politics

Chapter eight illustrates that normative perspectives on the social politics of fatherhood underwent a revolutionary transformation during the course of the 20th century: leading to the development in Sweden and the Nordic welfare states of father-friendly social policies and lengthy parental leave regimes. Alternatively, the more recent growth of American sociological perspectives on fatherlessness and family decline have combined to influence the development of patriarchal (or patricentric) social commentaries on the perils and pitfalls of lone-motherhood and non-resident fatherhood. The final chapter discusses to what extent the rolling back the of the welfare state in the USA may herald the growth of neo- patriarchy and a normative retreat from social policy norms and values based on principles of gender equality and the decline of patriarchy.

in Between two worlds of father politics