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No Direction HomeThe American Family and the Fear of National Decline, 1968-1980$
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Natasha Zaretsky

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780807830949

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807867808_zaretsky

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“The Great Male Cop-Out”

“The Great Male Cop-Out”

Productivity Lag and the End of the Family Wage

(p.105) 3 “The Great Male Cop-Out”
No Direction Home

Natasha Zaretsky

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores what economists called “productivity lag,” a trope of national decline in America during the early 1970s that revolved around the family. More specifically, it considers cultural anxieties about the nation's productive capacity that surfaced at the same time. It begins by tracing the problem to the postwar years, when productivity rates rose steadily but began to slow down in the steel and automobile industries by the late 1960s. It then discusses the argument that the lag could be attributed to a “new breed” of workers who were no longer responsive to the economic incentives that had compelled the previous generation of men to work. It also looks at corporations' implementation of quality of work life programs that utilized the psychological language of self-fulfillment to boost efficiency. Finally, the chapter examines the revival of a “producerist ethic” in response to deindustrialization, the expansion of the service sector, and the end of the family wage.

Keywords:   productivity lag, national decline, America, family, self-fulfillment, producerist ethic, deindustrialization, service sector, family wage, corporations

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