What about Policy?
One final disclaimer: despite its occasional forays into normative questions, this book by no means takes up a systematic exposition of normative principles that ought to govern intimate relations either in ordinary practice or in the law. Instead, the book clarifies the stakes of a number of consequential policy questions. It does so by overturning statements of fact, of possibility, and of cause-effect relations that frequently appear in normative discussions. The most obvious case concerns the now familiar separate spheres and hostile worlds arguments. Certainly hostile worlds guardians care deeply about issues of injustice, inequality, and protection. Indeed, those concerns underlie their insistence on insulating spheres of intimacy to protect relations of trust and reciprocity. Yet paradoxically, by perpetuating the myth of inescapable divisions and battles between the worlds of sentiment and rationality, of market and domesticity, hostile worlds arguments divert us from real solutions. Such misunderstandings therefore not only create theoretical confusions but have serious practical implications. We have seen repeatedly how hostile worlds arguments shape legal decisions. Indeed, they often underpin unjust policies, such as the following:
• Denial of compensation to women for household work in a range of areas
• Low pay for caregivers, such as nannies and home-health aides
• Condemnation of welfare to unmarried mothers, as a spur to dependency
• Prohibitions on child labor that actually harm households or hinder children’s acquisition of valuable skills
To the extent that normative discussions assume the existence of separate spheres and their mutual corruption at point of contact, those normative programs will fail to accomplish their announced objectives.
It therefore matters to get the interaction of intimacy and economic activity right. This book has put forth a connected lives approach, showing the continuous crossing of our intimate relations and economic transactions. Looking at coupling, care, and households we did not find separate worlds of economy and sentiment, nor did we see markets everywhere. Instead we have observed crosscutting, differentiated ties that connect people with each other. We witnessed people investing energy and ingenuity in marking differences among their relations to each other and regularly including economic transactions in those intimate relations. None of us, we have seen, lives in segregated spheres with unbreachable barriers between our personal relations and our economic ties.
What are the practical implications of such an approach? To direct our search toward just, noncoercive sets of economic transactions for different types of intimate relations. The goal is not therefore to cleanse intimacy from economic concerns: the challenge is to create fair mixtures. We should stop agonizing over whether or not money corrupts, but instead analyze what combinations of economic activity and intimate relations produce happier, more just, and more productive lives. It is not the mingling that should concern us, but how the mingling works. If we get the causal connections wrong, we will obscure the origins of injustice, damage, and danger. Certainly, this book does not confer an unqualified seal of approval on the reconciliation of all forms of intimacy and all kinds of economic transactions. Commercialization can and often does create injustice and corruption of intimate ties. But the book strongly rejects existing explanations of how, when, and why this happens.