Document Type

Book Review

Publication Title

Oregon Law Review

Publication Date



According to the 2000 census, fewer than 24% of American homes are composed of a married couple and their minor children. As family forms proliferate, the meaning of 'parenting' is in flux and an issue of increasingly urgent concern. June Carbone's From Partners to Parents and Nancy Dowd's Redefining Fatherhood explain the transformation of parenting, explore the consequences and propose a range of strategies for dealing with them. This review compares their competing visions and explains how both contribute to a larger project of postmodern family law.

My thesis is that these books represent a major contribution to that project, in which commentators call for a revitalization of family law grounded in what Jean-Francois Lyotard calls our "postmodern condition". As Janet Wolff observes: "The radical task of postmodernism is to deconstruct apparent truths, to dismantle dominant ideas and cultural forms and to engage in the guerilla tactics of undermining closed and hegemonic systems of thought." This Essay explains how these authors 'undermine closed and hegemonic systems of thought' through their very different analyses of pomo parenting.

Both authors urge a more child-centered agenda and both realize that this is in tension with neoliberal as well as conservative priorities, even as it resonates with the rhetoric of both. Children, like the environment, are a long-term investment and no one wants to pay for them. Both authors aim to change this. Although they share many objectives, they have radically different approaches to the subject. Read in tandem, accordingly, they demonstrate the range and vitality of postmodern critiques, and the need for such critiques to describe and address the complexities of pomo parenting.


The author reviews From Partners to Parents: the Second Revolution in Family Law (2000) by June Carbone and Redefining Fatherhood (2000) by Nancy E. Dowd.



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