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Inventing the NeedyGender and the Politics of Welfare in Hungary$
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Lynne Haney

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520225718

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520225718.001.0001

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Maternalizing Need

Maternalizing Need

Specialization and the Quality Control of Motherhood

(p.99) 3. Maternalizing Need
Inventing the Needy

Lynne Haney

University of California Press

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

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