“Debates about Americans’ sexual practices and intimate lives, women’s reproduction, and the nature of family are inseparable from the history of capitalism and the modern liberal state. This cannot be emphasized enough. At its heart, the social contract overseen by government mediates the relationship among individuals, social institutions such as the family, and the market. The question is not whether gender, sex, and family are structured and regulated by the state; the question is what kind of regulations exist and to what end.”
This quote is from the introduction to Robert O. Self’s new book All in the Family. I bought a copy last week and have been dying to read it. I teased myself with the introduction last night. Unfortunately, I have lots of grading and other work that are preventing me from getting to it. My first impressions tell me that it is going to be a fantastic read and an important book to come.
It’s one of many recent books that are beginning to interrogate and analyze modern American history from from the post war period up to the 2000s. This historiography has been booming in the last few years. Most of these books integrate issues of race, gender, politics, and economics into one rich multi-layered tapestry that shows their connections. They’re exciting books that in someways reflect a new comprehensive of doing history. Other new good books that fit the same time period (roughly 1960-2000) that I think are must-reads, include Daniel T. Rogers’ The Age of Fracture (2011), and Jefferson Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive (2010). I’m also currently reading Thomas Borstlemann’s The 1970s (2012) right now. It’s pretty good too. I’ve also been told that I need to read Judith Stein’s Pivotal Decade (2010) so it’s on my wish list, but I probably wont get to it for a while.