Retreat to the private sphere

Following up on the Sherry Turkle post below, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow has a good review of Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women at the Boston Review (via @danagoldstein):

This single-minded focus on children’s health and flourishing leaves little room to think about the bigger picture. In a 1980 journal article, social critic Robert Crawford used the term “healthism” to refer to a new preoccupation of the middle class with personal health and wholesome lifestyles. He also drew a connection between healthism and political disengagement. A sense of impotence—“I can’t change the world, but at least I can change myself,” as Crawford put it—fed the mania for vitamins, exercise, herbal supplements. And in turn, as people poured more energy into their own health, they had less time and inclination to invest in civic or political involvement. Since 1980 this outlook does not seem to have abated, to say the least, and for parents it applies doubly to their children. In shaping contemporary parenthood, this retreat to the private sphere has been at least as important as a retreat to nature.

Maybe it’s unfair to say that the failure of Turkle’s account of technology is that she doesn’t read and think about breastfeeding and parenting more, since it’s a book about technology. But her concerns are all grounded in this idea that there are some fundamental knowable values, but when you push on them she seems to just be lapsing into a very familiar sort of moralizing about the family.

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