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16 Working Paper

"Paradigms & Political Discourse: Labour & Social Policy in the USA & France Before 1914"

1988 – Jane Jenson


In this paper, Jane Jenson develops a new approach to explaining comparative social policy, emphasizing the way in which collective identities become embedded in societal paradigms that then structure the development of policy in particular fields. She explores the processes of political conflict that lead up to the construction of a societal paradigm by comparing the development of family policy in France and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The courts, labor unions, and professional groups all playa role in the creation of distinctive lines of policy that turn around the notion of working mothers in France and housewives in the United States. Originally presented to the "Seminar on the State and Capitalism since 1800," this revised version is a pathbreaking piece of political analysis and social history. The author wishes to thank Greg Albo, Linda Gordon, Peter Hall, Rianne Mahon, Sonya Michel, Mark Neufeld and Sandra Whitworth, as well as all the participants in the Seminar. Support for the research came from SSHRCC, grant #410-86-0238 .