Books by Mona Harrington

CARE AND EQUALITY by Mona Harrington
Released: Aug. 23, 1999

A partially successful attempt to deny that "liberal family policy" is an oxymoron. Few people doubt that there is a crisis over family-related issues in contemporary American society. Harrington (Women Lawyers, Rewriting the Rules, 1994, etc.) recognizes the efforts of liberals to craft policy responses, but the traditional strength of liberalism has been emphasizing individual rights and the prerogatives of private life. From this perspective, individuals make private decisions about family life, leaving no basis for assessing whether the system is working well, even if the aggregate results of those decisions are negative. Conservatives, on the other hand, embrace their conception of the traditional family as a fixed moral standard and condemn anything that threatens it, thereby successfully painting liberal promotion of women's rights, child care, etc., as antifamily because liberals lack an alternative conception of the family. Harrington argues that liberals must continue attacking the conservative assumption that good families require women to shoulder the caretaking burdens of society without compensation, but they also must do more: liberals must promote women's equality without denying their caretaker role, must synthesize individual rights and caretaking into a new understanding of the family. Having established the need for a liberal alternative to the conservative version of the family, however, she avoids taking on the task of describing it by espousing a participatory politics that will presumably fill in its substance. Rather than explaining how an extra dose of democracy will overcome the ideological barriers posed by the hegemonic hold of the traditional family on American minds, she squanders much of the latter portion of the volume in an ill-chosen struggle with the Clinton legacy as nontraditional male leader and sexual libertine. After an impressive beginning, Harrington disappoints by hiding behind a "politics" of liberal family policy rather than providing what her analysis indicates is really needed: a liberal theory of the family. Read full book review >
WOMEN LAWYERS by Mona Harrington
Released: Jan. 18, 1994

Why many women lawyers are so miserable, and what they can do to change the profession; by attorney-turned-political-scientist Harrington (The Dream of Deliverance in American Politics, 1986). Interviews with ``over 100'' women lawyers, most graduates of Harvard Law School, tell depressingly similar stories: Entering the law ``in search of a father to embrace,'' women are silenced and shaken by the confrontational Socratic dialogue of the law-school classroom. Moreover, the prestigious firms they may join upon graduation view them suspiciously ``as dealers in emotion and subjective preference''—and as ``bodies.'' If they gun for partners, they must swagger like men and put in ``heroic hours.'' If they bear children, they must grapple with ``constant planning, pressure and guilt''—that is, until the punishing schedule and competitive ethic overwhelms them, prompting them to give up on the illusion of part-time work and to quit, thereby forgoing any opportunity to change the rules of the game. The second half of Harrington's study attempts to reframe the discussion by considering how some women lawyers ``use their authority to advance the equality of women,'' but the author's practical advice (go in- house; file amicus briefs; ``talk, project, dissent'') is uninspired, and her discussion of feminist jurisprudence (including the work of feminist deconstructionists, as well as of Catharine A. MacKinnon) drifts far afield. Harrington's main theme—that law isn't an expression of disembodied reason but, rather, merely the construct of the socially dominant (read: ``white male'') group—is provocative, but of limited value to the exhausted mother slogging through her umpteenth deposition. The author's great contribution here is quoting women at length as they describe in intimate detail what brought them to—and often what drove them away from—the practice of law. Except for some overblown theorizing: an important and incisive study, of potential interest to all women professionals. Read full book review >