Maternalizing Need

Lynne Haney

in Inventing the Needy

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2002 | ISBN: 9780520225718
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936102 | DOI:
Maternalizing Need

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This chapter explicates the dynamics of the maternalist welfare state of the late socialist period (1968–1985) in Hungary by analyzing how social conceptions of the needy were reinvented in maternal terms. Policy data, case files from two welfare institutions of the period, interviews with government officials, and regulation of the quantity and quality of motherhood by the welfare system are examined. The rise of the good-mother mold and evaluative distinctions made by welfare workers between the domestically competent and incompetent are traced. The analysis reveals how welfare work became increasingly specialized. Despite the regime's collective focus, it ended up breeding quite individualized survival strategies. Rather than transforming the existing resources into collective rights or guarantees, the reforms chipped away at women's discursive and practical maneuverability. They reconstituted women's institutional positions by emphasizing their roles as mothers and subjecting them to new forms of regulation. This reconceptualization of need had profound implications for women's ability to protect themselves in everyday life.

Keywords: specialization; motherhood; maternalist welfare state; maternalizing need; maneuverability; Hungary

Chapter.  12996 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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