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Feminism and the Third Way Author(s): Angela McRobbie Source: Feminist Review, No.

64, Feminism 2000: One Step beyond? (Spring, 2000), pp. 97-112 Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals Stable URL: . Accessed: 28/10/2013 12:03
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This articlearguesthat the 'ThirdWay',as the ideologicalrationalefor the New in the UK, attemptsto resolvethe tensions aroundwomen LabourGovernment and socialpolicyconfrontedby the presentGovernment. The ThirdWayaddresses in particular 'women'without 'feminism', those floatingwomen votersfor whom feminismholds little attraction.But affluent,middleEngland,corporatewomen, though centralto the popularimaginationof the Daily Mail, and thus to Tony Blair,are in practicea tiny minority.New Labourin office thus finds itself comIt wants to see women as a social group mitted to reconcilingthe irreconcilable. move morefully into employment, and on this manyfeministswould agree.At the same time it wants to see throughfurthertransformations of the welfare state, this involvesfurthercuts along the lines set in motion by Mrs Thatcher. Inevitably in spendingand privatizationof social insurance.The formerprincipleis made moredifficultby the latterpolicy.Recentfeministanalysisindicatesthe scaleof the needs of women to allow full and equalparticipation in work and in society. c

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New Labour;ThirdWay;socialist feminism;welfare to work; poverty;employment;TonyBlair

Ambitious and independent: NewLabour's new woman

We are confronted by a range of problems when, at this point in time, almost at the year 2000, we think about the emergence of the so-called Third Way. Immediately there is the question of its relation to New Labour and also the question of what it means for our own practice as socialist feminists. So let's start by trying to indicate the scale of the problem. First the Third Way seems to comprise at least three different meanings. It comes into being primarily through two routes, a lecture given by the Prime Minister Tony Blair to the Fabian Society (Blair, 1997) and the short book authored by Anthony Giddens titled The Third Way (Giddens, 1998). From here (and Blair acknowledges his debt to Giddens) it begins quite
Feminist Review ISSN 0141-7789 print/ISSN 1466-4380 online ? Feminist Review Collective


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quickly to take distinctive shape as the ideological rationale for New The functionof the ThirdWayfrom the start is to act hegemoniLabour. cally. It is destinedto do the same kind of thing that the 'authoritarian populism'of Mrs Thatcherachieved.That is, the ThirdWaywould ideally reachout and touch the innermostneeds, anxieties,hopes and fearsof the nation (Hall, 1989). To work, it must tap into disparateand as yet only sensibilities. half-formed By fleshingthemout andgivingfull formto them, to unifythem,this New Labourway of doing governand then attempting is unthinkable. ment comes to be naturalto the point that an alternative for Alongsidethis is the versionof the ThirdWaywhich is a prescription would be perhapstoo To'callit a philosophyof government Government. grand for the pragmaticswhich are such a key characteristicof New This is cerinsteadit is moremodestlya sociologyof government. Labour, of time that the the first once-ridiculed discipline sociology has tainly gained such recognition.Giddens'Third Waytakes key changes in contemporarysociety, subjectsthem to sociological analysisand proposes a solutionsunderthe socialdemocratic numberof modernandmanagerialist Third It does this with of the extraordinary clarity,bringing Way. heading In this guise the complex ideas within the grasp of a popularreadership. ThirdWayis a sociology of social changein the serviceof the centreleft. The third, more flippant, version of the Third Way is that which has enteredinto everydaylife as a cynical journalisticcliche describingNew Labourpractice.This suggestsa kind of balancingact (or politics of triangulation)where strategiesassociatedwith the Tories (e.g. bringingin privatecompaniesto run so-called'sinkschools')are combinedwith educationalpolicies more traditionally linkedwith the LabourParty(cutting class sizes). Theseversionsof the ThirdWaypose the questionof what exactlya socialist feministresponseto both New Labourand the Third Way might be. For a start, are 'we' still in agreementwith each other? We might be expectedto view the renewedbut still reformistsocial democraticpolitics (symbolizedin the hyphenatedcentre-left)advocatedby Giddensas far removedfromthe muchmoresociallytransformative politicsof socialism. Likewisewe would be criticalof his argumentthat becauseEasternEuropean socialismand the communiststates have failed, socialismper se has no future. For how many years have 'we' argued that the politics of WesternMarxismwere deeplyhostile to those practisedin actualexisting socialist states?And why should the end of the old communistregimes mark the end of socialismas a political system?But the underlyingissue is how firmdo we all standon our own 'old politics'?Have they too underof recentyears? gone some sea-changein the light of the transformations would that there has a in indeed been crisis Many agree left-wingpolitics.


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Nearly twenty years impute something Tory Government, as well as the seeming failure to reproduce the same enthusiastic socialist feminist politics among a younger generation, has certainly sapped the energies of many of our own generation. Indeed the very fact that we can describe ourselves politically as a generation is a sign of our limited success. How then might 'we' as feminists respond to both the Third Way and New Labour in office? We have two useful models at hand in this respect. The recent work by Stuart Hall on the Blair 'project' could be described as occupying a position of principled dissent (Hall, 1998). The Third Way marks a reneging on what a modern left politics could be, in favour of a continuation of what Mrs Thatcher set in motion. Against this is the work of Tony Giddens. Far from critique, Giddens offers a programme for government and a staunch defence of a modernized 'centre left' politics based on the abandonment of traditional socialist ideals, which raises the question of what is 'left' in the 'centre left'? My own position is a good deal closer to Hall's than to Giddens, but with a number of provisos, one of which is that New Labour seems to me more divided internally than his analysis allows and this in itself permits the impact of some socialist feminist policies, if only 'by stealth' and at odds with the Third Way. Indeed I want to propose here that the figure of 'woman' stands at the centre of these new politics. This is partly thanks to feminism. The willingness to embrace the needs of women is both a mark of the 'modernity' of New Labour and also what distinguishes it from the previous Tory Governments. But New Labour, with the Third Way as its ideological arm, seeks to reach out over the heads of feminists and speak instead to 'ordinary women'. At every point 'they' (New Labour) have distanced themselves from feminism, if not actively repudiated it. It has become as Anna Coote recently put it in the Guardian, the 'f' word, in effect unsayable in New Labour circles (Coote, 13 May 1999: 15). Likewise the Women's Unit, set up, albeit with some reluctance, by New Labour, is reportedly Blair's least favourite initiative (Perkins, 1999: 6-7). I want to argue here that the Third Way envisages a politics for women without feminism. Why? Because feminism was one of the features of the left which New Labour felt it had to demonstrably distance itself from to gain office. In practice however New Labour cannot maintain this distance quite as much as it would like. This is partly because feminism now occupies the peculiar position of being seemingly universally disliked, while at the same time it has crept into the realm of popular common sense. The phenomenon of the 'made over' New Labour woman MP is an example of how New Labour has tried to manage this contradiction. Most of the newly elected women MPs have sought to embrace a glamorous image, in


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sharpcontrastto that associated(wrongly)with drearyold feminism.But despitethe hostilityNew Labourseems to exude towards 1970s socialist feminism,there is also a sense, and I will develop this point later,that it has also been forcedat some level to listen to these voices.1 The make-overssymbolizethe shift, and the desireto airbrushout of the politicalpicturethose elementswhich mightmake New Labourunattractive to 'ordinary women'.Butwho arethesewomen?Actuallythey are not I would arguethey are quite specific.'They'are the mothers so ordinary. and daughtersof affluentand white middleEngland,the relativelyapolitwomen who now figure in most political ical but conservative-oriented for themselves and theirchildren.Theyhave are ambitious equations.They in for terms of needs childcare,equalpay and betteropportunities specific economicindependence from men for the simplereasonthat they too get in 'de-traditionalized' families.They divorcedand they too findthemselves are also the kind of women Giddensseems to be addressingin his book. One imaginesthem in an electionbroadcastor TV advertisement. Blonde, two cars, caring late 30s, well groomed and attractive,suburban-living, and embracing about schools and health, but deeplyconsumerist an indithe main concern is 'me vidualismwithin and family unit. The narrowly my family'and any notion of the socialgood is accessedthroughthis prism of the family. The ThirdWayappealsto this group, but the problemfor New Labouris that 'real women' are very different from this 'corporate/suburban woman'. They still work in the public sector,earn less money,do not live in a two car family,and have more substantialneeds in terms of welfare and benefitsas they move furtherand furtheraway from the traditional family.Their teenage daughtersmight have a baby out of wedlock and theirsons mayhavetroublefindinga job. Thusthe secondpartof my argument is that the Third Way seeks to reconcile the irreconcilable.The is committedto transforming Government welfare by reducingaccess to benefits,and this finds full expressionin Giddens'book as one of the key planks of the Third Way. At the same time the Governmentneeds the supportof the femalevoter,even though they remainmost relianton an expandedsystem of welfare,which means that they are in effect part of the problem.Letme put this morestarkly. In the driveto createan employment-led society women and girls find themselves at the forefront of Government targetedon the basis policy,with young women increasingly of their high performance in education.At the same time women are the lowerthe costs targetof attemptsto cut down on benefitsand dramatically of welfare.While it is temptingto explain this in terms of class and age, with older,working class women coming off worse, as SylviaWalbyhas recentlypointed out, the realityis a good deal more complex. At various


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points in the life cycle the vast majorityof women find themselveson the on someform marginsof the labourmarketandthuspotentiallydependent of welfareor support(Walby,1999: 7). The most likely responsefrom socialist feministsto New Labour'scommitmentto what has come to be known as ThirdWay politics, is one of This is becausea key definingfeatureof the undisguiseddisappointment. ThirdWay is its combiningelementsof left social democracywith right neo-liberalism. Butthis ought to havecome as no realsurprise. Therewere many signs along the way well before the election in May 1997. Most socialistfeministswere as dismayedby TonyBlair'scourtingof the highly sexist tabloidpressand the reactionary Murdochglobal empirein the run the the election as they were by up to approvalexpressedfor traditional familyvalues.The LabourPartyin office has historicallyfound itself bolsteringthe welfarestate to curbthe excessesof freemarketcapitalism,but for the ThirdWaymarksa clearshift the currentGovernment's preference away from this, and this is somethingnew and distinct. The decline of socialism(in light of the crumblingof Communistregimes)is taken as a fait accompli, and as grounds for inventing a 'modernized'Labour Government basedon consensus('an international consensusof the centre left' Giddens,1998: 1) which means combiningelementsfrom right and left. This too is new and distinctive.There is anothercrucialingredient which is what has been learnt from Mrs Thatcher.Third Way thinking recognizesthat the key to Mrs Thatcher'ssuccess lay in her ability to presenther 'authoritarian populist common sense' as ' the only possible frameworkfor the resolutionof the crisis' (Smith,1998: 167). In the late 1990s, New Labourhas looked to the ThirdWayto providethis rationale for creatinga mode of Government which is naturaland necessary. My argumentwill be that as a suitably 'post-Tory'slogan for a New LabourGovernment, this new ethos attemptsto maskand gloss over some of the divisionsand ambivalences inside New Labour,giving the illusion of consensus.The modernimagecan be easilymarketedas internationally acrossthe world who are relevant,and appealingto variousGovernments now also attemptingto steer a middle way between the excesses of free marketeconomicsand the so-calledrigidityof state-ledsocial democracy. This has the advantageof castingBlairin the role of international leader, at least in terms of progressiveor 'radical'ideology.The need for such a role is again something learnt from Mrs Thatcher. The Third Way mimicsThatcherism and borrowsfrompopularconservatism undoubtedly in its appealto the mantraof 'law and order',familyvaluesand consumer culture.But the more awkwardissues for the modernizers, arisefrom the fact that many of the currentGovernment's concernsare also forgedfrom a left-wing agenda which the Tories would never have touched (e.g.

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devolution) including those directed towards women. There is consequently a deep anxiety and even schizophreniaabout being seen to embraceleft-wingprinciples,for fear of losing the supportof the 'floating voter' and runningthe risk of beingexposed by the tabloids(alwaysready to pounce)as beingold left in new clothing.Thus the ThirdWaymanages these dangers and conceals the extent to which at least some socialist feministdemandsare beingconsideredand even implemented 'by stealth'. versionof New Labourpolitics made The ThirdWay offersa conflict-free women'. attractiveto the electorateand to 'ordinary

Giddens'Third Way
Tony Giddenshas come to prominenceas New Labour'sfavouredtheoretician.The ThirdWay arguesthat it is now necessaryto move beyond right and left. The book puts its case on the following grounds.Firstthe in termsof the fall of the SovietUnion and failureof socialismis described in WesternEuropefor social democracy ratherthan socialthe preference ism. Both the Reagan administrationand the Thatcher Government however heraldedthe rise of neo-liberalism, with its emphasison 'unfetteredmarketforces(the)defenceof traditional institutionsparticularly the and As it nation' 1998: he 'Thatcherism char(Giddens, 12). family puts acteristicallyis indifferent to inequalities or actively endorses them' (ibid: 13). The contradictionthis ethos produces hinges round the celebration of individualism which cannot be comfortablyreconciledwith traditionalfamily values. Hence the problems of endorsing a full free marketposition which ends up promotingantisocialvalues. But old style socialdemocracy couldnot unproblematically it was perbe an alternative, ceivedby Labourin the mid-1980sas in need of updating.Socialclasswas no longer a stable predictorof political allegiance.Voters now express needs other than those merelyconnectedwith wages and incomes.Widescale social changehas producedthe need consequently to rethinkthe old divisionsof left and right. Peoplewant individualfreedomsbut they also want safety nets and social securityin the broad sense. ThirdWay theorists convergein agreement howeveron what Thatcherism set in motion, which is the unsustainability of the post-warwelfarestatein providingthis cushionof securityfor all. This then is a decisivecharacteristic of the Third Way. Increasinglypeople will be expected to provide their own social securitythroughprivateinsuranceschemes,with the safety nets that continue to exist being narrowlymeans tested and targetedtowards a small minority. What Giddens sketches out in relatively reassuring and euphemisticterms can quite easily be retranslatedback into the antiwelfare languageof the previousGovernment. The universalprincipleof social insurancecan be no more.


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Giddens then outlines Third Way politics. These engage directly with | the questionof left and right, the place and > globalization,individualism, role of politics and the ecologicalcrisis. Ratherthan seeing it as a threat, | or else as dominationby world financialmarkets,Giddensargues for a X in terms of afforded to the opportunities positive response globalization by new communicativetechnologies. He suggests the transformative 2 capacity of globalization has also a democratizingpotential. He then chartsthe growthof the new individualism stressingthis not to be merely z of Thatcherite valuesbut the activedesireon the partof people a reflection x to exertmorecontrolover theirfutures,and over who they are. This once again marksan opportunityarisingfrom the looseningof traditionalties. in termsof rights $ The politicalrole of individuals mustnow be accentuated with particularemphasison the latter.The demiseof and responsibilities East Europeansocialism suggests there is no longer an alternativeto capitalism.How then can capitalismbe controlledand regulatedby social democraticGovernments? The centre-leftis, argues Giddens,more than ' the moderate "the centre"shouldn'tbe regarded as emptyof subleft, just stance' (Giddens,1998: 45). What then is the role of the centre?Answer, to transform the welfaresociety!But,for fearperhapsof beingseen as too muchof the centreon this issue, Giddenssimplycalls for 'radicalrethinking'.

Third Way politics are thus a managerialism of the centre-left.A warm welcome is given to globalizationbut its free marketeering excessesmust be curbed. Social justice must be a definingcharacteristic of Third Way Governmentbut individualrights must also requireindividualresponsibility.There must be an extension of democracyat every level of society includingthe local, but insteadof markinga continuitywith old Labour local democracy this also incorporates elementsof 'philosophic grass-roots conservatism'. Giddensis vague about what this entails,otherthan that it is 'a pragmatic way of copingwith change',and a 'respectfor the past and for history'.But still, this choice of words in the accountof the ThirdWay becomesone of its key elements,for the simple reason that it is exactly what those on the left includingfeministswould most objectto. It marks a point of mutualexclusion.What then are the otherfeaturesof Giddens' ThirdWay,which are of particular to feminists? In his version significance of sexual politics without the 'f' word, the 'democraticfamily', argues Giddens,is based on sexual equalityand co-parenting.Fatherhoodmust now involvea more activerole and, independent of divorceor remarriage, must undertake to care for their childrenand protect parents contractually them from abuse. The 'inclusive society' is equally reasonable and unprovocativein its aims. Communitybuilding is, he claims, a better option than old fashionedpoverty programmesand although the Third


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Way stronglyemphasizesthat the unemployedmust activelyseek work to be entitledto benefit,Giddensalso remindsus in an affableand moderate kind of way that 'a society too dominatedby the work ethic would be a thoroughly unattractiveplace in which to live' (Giddens, 1998: 110). Overall then the tone of the book aspires to fairness, moderationand sound good sense. By puttingin to the societywe can expect to get things back, as a kind of fair exchange. This is what he means by 'positive welfare'.

TheThird Wayfor women?

Therearevariouscriticisms which could be raisedin relationto this book, not leastof which,is thatwhat is gainedin seekingclarityis lost in addressing complexity. Giddens also describesa version of politics peculiarly lackingin antagonism,as StuartHall has put it 'a politics without adversaries' (Hall, 1998: 10). There is nothing here that suggeststhe intense power struggleswhich are an inescapable part of politicallife. It is a kind of people-friendly which Giddens offers, quite out of touch with politics the conflicttorn world in whichwe live and which as a sociologistof 'conflict theory'in his earlierlife he must surelybe awareof (Giddens,1971). It is not simplygood intentionsthat informthe desireto get singlemothers off benefit, for example. The underlyingdebate around welfare and responsiblecitizenshipis directedat either the disadvantaged (e.g. single or the and antisocial women who mothers) poor (e.g. young get pregnant), and the aim is to dramatically reducethe cost of benefitsand, more radically,to shift the whole cultureaway from the expectationof welfare.But this focus on the sociallyexcludedtakes attentionaway from other more powerfulelementsin society who might also be seen as sociallyirresponsible.Just how easy is it to makenationaland international capitalismact with justiceand responsibility and how can the kind of greedyindividualism advocatedacrossthe popularmedia be reconciledwith the pursuitof real social justice?2 Giddens'vision of conflict-free politics is also markedby a completeinattention to the questionof race. He fails to even registerthe impactwhich racial discriminationand racial hatred have had on black and Asian people. This absencebecomes all the more noticeablein the light of the events (includingthe nail bomb attacksdirectedat black and gay people in London) following the publication of the inquiry into the death of StephenLawrence.Somehowthe sufferingand the pain experiencedby a wide rangeof socialgroups,includingwomen, priorto, but most evidently through,the Thatcheryears is now expectedto be forgotten.The Third Way ignores the scale of the problems posed by the socio-economic


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This in structureof the society we live in, nationallyand internationally. itself ought to remind us how much the Third Way is ideologically inflected;as Zizek has put it, the objectiveis to convince us that 'global capitalismis "the only game in town"' (Zizek, 1999 p. 137). It is aimed to appease the anxieties of the right inclined, business classes and the It demonstrates New Labour's middleEnglanders. realneedfor cross-party as for the a second and third term.Hencemy argupopularappeal strategy mentthat it smoothesoverthe realdifferences in Government and the scale of the problemsbeing addressed. The situation of women in contemporaryBritainis actually at the very heart of the presentGovernment's key concerns.Among the most important and fraughtissues for New Labourso far have been single parents and their entitlementto benefit,welfare to work (again with particular emphasison lone parents),the provisionof childcareand the questionof The question is not so much the 'democraticfamily', teenagepregnancy. as the socialconsequences of the hugetransformations in familylife includand hencetheir ing women'sdesire(andneed)for economicindependence in the labour market. It is these same however which participation topics have long been the concernof socialistfeministsin Britainand elsewhere. It is somewhatgalling thereforeto find social theoristslike Giddenssuddenly jump on this bandwagonand preachthe virtuesof sexual equality and improvedfatherhood,as though it is somethingnew, or else to come acrossUlrichBeck(who has shot to globalfameas the theoristof the Third Way) who suggests rather quaintly that nowadays women who do not attend to their careersbeforeand duringmarriageand motherhood'face ruin on divorce'(Beck, 1999). Giddensborrowsquite dramatically from the feministagendawhile managingto producea feminist-free accountof modern family life, while Beck acknowledgesthe changing position of women in society not thanksto feministdemandsfor equalitybut as part of the process of individualization. As Zizek points out, neither writer the valueor the impactof Marxisttheoryon the sociological acknowledges accountsof sexual and social change.It is as thoughthey are each writing in a vacuum which negates the very existence of years of struggleand antagonismin politics and in theory.As readersof FeministReview well know the feminizationof poverty has been a key issue for over twenty years.The questionof childcareand the organizationof domesticlabour likewise.Perhapswe shouldnow be relievedthat afterall these long years we are at last being listened to by Governmentthanks to the mediating voices of Giddensand Beck.We could welcomethe fact that our concerns arebeingtakenseriouslyby Government despitethe 'beyondrightandleft' rhetoricof the ThirdWay.
Inevitably it is more complex than this. I would argue that the Third Way 105

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itselffromall activitiesassociatedwith socialseeksto activelydifferentiate ists and feminists.The style of the ThirdWayis completelydifferent.This is as Geoff Mulgan has put, in his attempt to defend the Third Way as differentfromthe old left, a Government of good ideasand 'practical solutions' (Mulgan, 1998: 15). The new role of think-tankslike DEMOS is with the faith also in partto 'thinkthe unthinkable' which meansbreaking of old Labour. Thus the ThirdWay in practiceappearsto mean pursuing the politics of triangulationwhich has been a hallmarkof the Clinton in the US. Right and left are 'appeased'on the basis of the administration of both right and left policies.The role of the ThirdWay implementation is thereforeto give distinctshape and character to New Labour's policies, and to 'brand'them as differentfrom old Labour. Thereare threekey questionswhich most affectsinglemothers.The Third Way skirts aroundthem while New Labourtackles them head on. First, should lone parentsbe expectedto work?Feministshave been dividedon this issue. Ruth Lister(seeminglythe only avowedlysocialistfeministlistened to by New Labour)has recentlydescribedhow for a long time she arguedthatwomencould only achieveindependence throughaccessto and in the labour market It (Lister,1999). seems reasonableto participation expect women with school age childrenand no other source of financial supportto work. As Listerhas put it '. .. I have supportedthe case for lone (andother)mothersof older childrento be availablefor, at requiring least, part-time,paid work as a condition of receivingbenefit,providing certainconditionsare met' (Lister,1999: 243). Benefitsfor singlemothers across OECD countriestend to be tied to their registering for work, and a similarrequirement would thereforebring Britaininto line. The issue remainshowever at what age should childrenbe before this requirement is implemented,is it primaryschool age or secondaryschool age? Lister has also recentlyindicatedher increasing supportfor feministswho argue that care providedby women in the home is necessarywork and should not be overlookedby the compulsioninto the labour market.She recognizes the possiblecontradiction here, and admitsthat 'my position is now one of ambivalence'(Lister,1999: 244). As it stands New Labourhas introduceda systemwhere lone parentsare expected to attend an interview to discusstheiravailability for work. The novel featurewhichthe new Government is pinningits hope on is the role of the personaladvisorwhose job it is to facilitatere-entryinto the labourmarket. The abilityto work, Listeragrees,dependson the provisionof affordable childcare.This then is the second key featurewhich affectswomen'slives andwhichis currently a majorconcernof the Government, who haspledged to greatlyimprovethe provision.Indeedthe new system of tax creditsis

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designed to be a concrete help in easing the burden of the costs of childcare and thus overcoming the disincentive to work. It is obvious that the need for childcare takes on very different dimensions for a lone parent as it does in a household comprising two parents. For the former it is the scale of the need and the cost which is almost incalculable. And when these needs cannot be met and when the needs of children become overwhelming the temptation to leave the labour market and return to the home despite the loss of earning becomes a reality. Let me illustrate this with a fictional scenario. Imagine two sisters who are for very different reasons lone parents. One has three children under 16, the other has two, one of 12 and the other 4. They are both teachers and neither of them receives any help in childcare from their former husbands. Although it might be imagined that the local education authority is a sympathetic employer, in the current climate of primary and secondary education the hours are long, evenings have to be spent marking homework and preparing lessons, and often each sister has to attend training or management sessions held at the weekend. In addition there are several times throughout the year when the children are at home while their mothers have to be at work for 'training days'. On modest teachers' salaries the most they can afford in terms of childcare is a few hours of after school care provided by another local mother who does not work. Otherwise their systems require and rely on the help of their elderly mother who now has failing health. Apart from the sheer scale of hard work, day in day out, comprising very early rises, late night shopping, and cooking and cleaning after a whole day's work, the biggest problems arise when one of the children is ill. Inevitably with five children between them this is a common occurrence. What they need is a DEMOS type 'good idea', one which is beyond the imagination of most policy makers, but which I can only describe as a kind of 'flying nanny' service. On a 'sick day' they desperately need to be able to call on somebody to come and look after the child in their own homes. In other words in the absence of an extended family or a network of friends through a local community (and how many women are still at home during the day and able to provide these services?) their childcare needs are enormous and even if they could afford them there are no such facilities available. This is surely one area for immediate job creation, the extension of existing childcare to embrace the full needs of lone parents. In the above circumstances, it only takes one thing to go seriously wrong, for example, a frightened child left uncollected after school because of some mishap and the mother is understandably likely to feel like giving up work and being at home to cook tea on time for children coming back from school and not being too tired to help them with their homework. Part-time work is however not a solution since part-time wages alone are not enough to pay a mortgage, run a car


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(necessaryto get to work) and feed a family.If these are the difficulties which confronttwo middle-classgraduateswho might have ended up as lone parents,then it is not hardto imaginethe scaleof the problemsfacing unqualifiedsingle mothers.While the Third Way steers well clear of the realityof lone parenthood,New Labourhas only so far tackledthe tip of
the iceberg.


The third and final question posed by the needs of women as they seek economic independenceis the availabilityof work. Job creation must underpin all efforts to improve the economic position of women and especiallysingle parents.Giddens'book on the ThirdWay demonstrates the commitmentto experimentsand pilot schemesso favouredby New Labour.Giddenslooks to Brazilfor examplesof local communitybased job creation.He has less to say howeverabout the practicalmechanisms of makingjobs for the unemployedespeciallyin areas of Britainwhere there has been an absence of employmentopportunitiesacross whole populationsfor many years. Following Beck he also points to voluntary work, but that is of little use to women who need to earn a decentliving. In fact thereare severalissues here. The firstis that beforejobs therehas to be high qualitytrainingand education.Thatis the only meansby which womenwill be able to earnenoughmoneyto lift themselves and theirchildren out of poverty in the long term. This is costly and it means public subsidy,in effect a massiveexpansionof furtherand highereducation. Thus thereare many tensionsbetweenthe ThirdWayprinciple(of getting women off welfare) and the reality of pursuingsuch a policy at ground level. A greatdeal may hinge roundtrainingand education,but the introduction of tuition fees has seen a substantialdecline in the numbersof maturestudentsenrolledfor courses. So how can this shift into training and work happenwithout furthersubsidy?For women with young children,studentloans are equatedwith debt. What is more, the newly introducedchildcare tax creditsonly applyto womenin work, not to thosewho are studyingor on trainingcourses.Onlymassivepublicsubsidywill make well-paid work a reality for lone mothers, and this will also take time, requiring long-terminvestmentin humancapital,which the privatesector is unlikelyto contribute to. In shortthe attemptto transform socialwelfare almost inevitablymeansreinventing the publicsector and creatingjobs in this same environment(albeitin its privatizedand 'tenderedout' forms). The unanticipated outcomecould well be exactly what we feministshave been arguingfor over the years, better opportunitiesfor poor and diswomen. This means that what is good for women, and good advantaged for a Government committedto the idea of 'women workers',is bad for those in favour of cuts in welfare. The problem at present is that the Government favoursboth of these policies.


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Feminismand globalization

Thereis no discussionin Giddens'ThirdWay of the gains (or losses) for His optimisticresponseto thisphenom- ' women as a resultof globalization. enon incorporates some proposals for cross-national cooperation on m humanrightsand on curbingthe excessesof multinational power,in particular the global financial markets. But surely there are urgent issues E which any left-wingdiscussionof globalizationmight have at the top of: z the agenda. For example, New Labourpromisesto prepare'our' young revolutionthroughthe provisionof people for the global communications in schools. But the of revolution instant comcomputers despite global munications,they have little to say about trying to eradicatethe use of cheap labour by women and children by the multinationalcommunications companiesin FreeTradeZone countries.The 'globalsweat-shop' is not a ThirdWayissue.Consequently the rhetoricof international human rightswhich is a partof ThirdWaypoliticsfails to connectwith what have beenfor manyyearsmajorconcernsfor socialistfeminists.Therearea host of campaigns,againsthome-working,againstthe use of child labourand cheap female labour, which have been documentedextensively by UK feministsand othersand these mighthave beendrawnon in the new politics of globalization,but no (Mitterand Rowbotham,1994; Ross, 1997). Nor does the rather dizzying image of global movement and cultural exchangetallywith the realityof ordinarywomen, who as DoreenMassey has arguedin practicerarelyleave theirown neighbourhoods, nevermind in the new world of accelerated communications and global participate At most women remaintoo poor to networking(Massey,1994). present do this. They would need the right qualifications, they would have to be of the rightage (relatively young) and if they had children,theirchildcare needs would extend to allow for regulartravelperiodsaway from home. What most workingmothersneed is not so much the global economy (or indeedglobal businesstravel)as local well-paidwork within easy reachof home and school. If this cuts them off from the networkingopportunities of the global firm,then this is a furthersign of the difficulties women still face in competingwith men at work who remainrelativelyunconstrained by the need to be near to home. To conclude,it would be unfairand unbalanced to implythatNew Labour was indifferentto many of these issues, in particularthe question of women'spoverty.Therehas been a clearcommitmentto tacklingpoverty so that childrengrowingup now will not be disadvantaged in the way their parentshave been. In some ways the emphasison childrenmight be construed as a commitmentalso to mothers.The subtle distinctionsof the Government's politics are such that tacklingthe poverty of women and childrenwhich are regardedas too 'old Labour'so they might be doing

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this 'by stealth' while adhering rigidly to the New Labour vocabulary of


child povertyin twenty years'.Meanwhileat the public rela'eradicating tions end of publicpolicy the ThirdWay has little to say on any of these issues.This is becauseat heartthe ThirdWay is about the rhetoricof diffrom fromthe old left. Its own triangulation moveseffortlessly ferentiation Blair's the middle article on the aim to appease Englanders(see Tony teenagemothersin the Daily Mail, Blair,1999: 17) to Giddens'affableand 'harmonist' vision of a 'niceworld', to the startlingly iconoclasticblendof and left ideas from the think-tank DEMOS and otherslike it. right issuing Having said this, it is also true that at least some of these initiativeshave wherein manyways the old left failed.While the advantageof succeeding it may not be the job of criticalintellectualsto come up with 'practical solutions' there is after nearly twenty years of Tory Government,more thanever,an urgencyabout at leastcomingup with some new policystrategies. For this reasonI find myselfdrawnto the vigour and inventiveness of at least some of the DEMOSpamphlets,for exampleCharlesLeadbetter's proposal, which fully acknowledges the needs of disadvantaged women, for the reinventionof the 'mutualsocieties'(Leadbetter, 1998). I welcomethe whole rangeof pilot schemeswhich at presentare testingout new policies up and down the country.Nor am I convincedthat old left and feministwisdoms were not in need of some review,though to be fair this was the startingpoint for MarxismTodayand the New Timesproject by StuartHall from the mid-1980s. So I am not suggesting spearheaded that the entireranksof the left and feministshave simplyreliedon old certaintiesto launchtheirattackson New Labour. Whereboth New Labour and its spinningsidekick,the ThirdWayfail, is in refusingto recognizethe need for public services,a public sector,and a wider public spherewhich is less dominated by multinational media companies. They cannot welcome and embracethe social good, which might prevailas a resultof bolsteringthese provisionsfor fear of losing the supportof the business classes. But, as I have arguedhere, the means by which women can be brought directlyinto the economyrequiresthe socializationof goods and services which would facilitate this entry. The chances of capitalism becoming 'more caring and more sharing'are franklytiny. Changesin the labour marketincludingthe exponentialgrowth of individualization along with the privatization cultureof the previousGovernment mean that more and more people are left to their own devices.Evenif, wearingmy most optimistic hat, the attempts to 'transformwelfare' do, on the longer term, succeed in helping to bring women into employmentso that they gain financialindependence, the criticalperiod is the space betweenthen and now. It finds millions of women facing great povertyin old age through


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lack of pensions; it finds single mothers facing even greater difficulties getting back into college and university (through lack of grants) and it also finds thousands of young, well qualified women forced to put off motherhood indefinitely for fear of losing their place in the competitive career hierarchy. And if young women feel they cannot be mothers, unless they are exceptionally well off or supported by a wealthy husband (the Spice Girls-as-mothers scenario) then we will see a new form of gender inequality emerge, involving the unpleasant choice between a job or a life.



-4 m


of Communications at Goldsmiths CollegeLondon AngelaMcRobbieis Professor
and author of British Fashion Design; Rag Trade or Image Industry? Routledge 1998 and In the Culture Society; Art, Fashion, Popular Music, Routledge 1999.

1 For examplethe recentlypublishedfeministcollectiontitled New Agendasfor Womenedited by SylviaWalby(Macmillan,1999) was suggestedto the editor and publisherby ClareShortMP,who also wrote the introduction. 2 In April1999 two businessmen who had employedunderage boysto stripasbestos were sentencedonly to communityservice,despite medical evidencethat exposureto this substancewill inevitablyresultin fatality.

lecture BECK,U. (1999) 'Die zukunftoder the politicaleconomyof uncertainty' deliveredat the LSE,London. BLAIR,T. (1997) The ThirdWay,FabianSocietyPamphlet,London. (1999) 'Why we should stop giving lone teenage motherscouncil homes'
Daily Mail, 14 June, p. 17.

COOTE,A. (1999) 'TheThirdWayand the "f" word' Guardian,15 May,p. 17.

GIDDENS, A. (1971) Capitalism and Modern Social Theory, Cambridge: Cam-

Press. bridgeUniversity (1998) The ThirdWay,Cambridge: PolityPress.

HALL, S. (1989) The Hard Road to Renewal, London: Verso.

(1998) 'The great moving nowhere show' Marxism Today, November/December. C. (1998) The MutualSociety,London:DEMOS. LEADBETTER, R. (1999) 'Reforming welfarearoundthe work ethic'Policyand Politics, LISTER, Vol. 27, No.2, pp. 233-46. D. (1994) Space,Placeand Gender,Cambridge: MASSEY, PolityPress. MITTER,S. and ROWBOTHAM,S. (1994) editors, Dignity and Daily Bread:
New Forms of Economic Organising among Poor Women in the Third World and in the First, London: Routledge.

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MULGAN,G. (1998) 'Whingeand a prayer'MarxismToday,November/December. A. (1999) 'TakeTwo' Guardian,1 June,pp. 6-7. PERKINS,
ROSS, A. (1997) editor, No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade and the Rights of Garment Workers, New York: Verso. SMITH, A.M. (1998) Laclau and Mouffe: The Social Democratic Imaginary,

London:Routledge. Macmillan. WALBY,S. (1999) editor,New Agendasfor Women,Basingstoke:

| ZIZEK, S. (1999) The Ticklish Subject, London: Verso


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