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The Family Division of Labour by Marie-Agnès Barrère-Maurisson, Amsterdam : SISWO, 2000, 213 pp., ISBN 90-6706-155-7.

  • Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay

…plus d’informations

  • Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay
    Université du Québec

Corps de l’article

Barrère-Maurisson is already well-known in French-speaking countries in the field of family division of labour and on issues related to work-family balancing, among others. This book is a translation of a work first published in French in 1992, but it has been re-edited to include the author’s most recent research. A preface to the English edition is also of interest and may help researchers and students to understand the essence of the author’s theoretical proposals.

The author examines the relationship between work and family and the two spheres are considered simultaneously, which is an original perspective, although more frequent since work-family balancing issues came to the forefront in the 90s. Still, to date, few researchers in Industrial Relations have worked on both dimensions at the same time.

The author also defends the differences between societies and the concept of a specific regulation for each of these societies. She indicates that there are high levels of overall coherence within individual societies and that within each society, or within each time period in a given society, there is a specific mode of regulation which is an expression of a specific relationship between the dominant economic structure and particular family structures. In this analysis, the author draws on some elements of the French Regulationist School but extends her consideration to include family issues, which results in a very interesting theoretical perspective The author notes that this particular mode of societal regulation (familial, market or political) varies from country to country and from one period to another. There are complex interactions between social institutions and the diverse roles played by the family, firms, the market and the State in each society and at different time periods. This interesting theoretical construct is developed in this book and it is surely of interest to researchers and students of industrial relations, sociology of work and labour economics.

The first chapter underlines the need for a new approach to family and work issues, stating these should be considered simultaneously. Then the author stresses the need for a linkage between the spheres of work and family, rather than the usual separation observed in many books or research studies. She exposes economic and sociological views on family and work issues and then presents her own perspective supporting the three assumptions underlying her theoretical construct, i.e. the linkage principle, the genetic principle and the regulation principle.

The second chapter presents a view of the historical evolution existing between work and the family in the 20th Century in France. This analysis can be extended to other countries, even if specific years and periods will vary from country to country. The distribution of paid and domestic work and family types is analysed in this chapter. Chapter 3 deals with agriculture and self-employment situations and looks at the evolution of non-wage work and changes in the family context.

Part II of the book opens with Chapter 4, which more fully develops the concepts of work and family that are pertinent to the author’s theoretical construction. The book’s essence is here since this chapter discusses the theoretical construction in detail. Chapter 5 examines methods which can be used to validate the theory and could be useful for students who wish to use the approach presented here in their own work.

Chapter 6 opens part III, and develops the various principles that the author wishes to highlight. Chapter 6 explains the periodisation principle and draws attention to changes over time in the work-family relationship. Chapter 7 points out local specificity as well as social categories. Finally, chapter 8 explores the international perspective and presents, among other elements, a comparison between France and Great Britain. The author puts an emphasis on societal forms of the relationship and also compared macro-social modes of regulation. These comparisons enable English-language readers who have not yet become acquainted with the Institutionalist or Regulationist French School of economists (Robert Boyer, Alain Lipietz, Michel Aglietta, etc.) to become familiar with these extremely interesting theories, as well as with the French School of Societal analysis, from the Laboratoire d’économie et de sociologie du travail (LEST) in Aix-en-Provence (Marc Maurice, Jean-Jacques Silvestre, amongst other authors from LEST). Although these two schools had some works published in English, they are not necessarily as well known as they should be in the USA and English-speaking (reading) countries.

The book is clearly to be recommended to all researchers and students interested in issues pertaining to the family or to work, or to both at the same time. A bibliography at the end of each chapter offers references making possible a more in-depth exploration of some issues, either the Regulationist School, family issues or work and employment issues. I do not think any other English publication presents this particular perspective, and this fact certainly justifies the translation and updating of this book.