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A book about understanding men's lives in the modern world

The Package Deal

Marriage, Work, and Fatherhood in Men's Lives

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Nicholas W. Townsend

"Nicholas Townsend has produced an elegant, insightful, occasionally heartwrenching portrait of what it means to be a man in late twentieth-century America. His interviews reveal, as no mere statistics could, the tensions and contradictions that fathers face as they try to conform to a predominant cultural script. Neither villains nor victims, these men earn our sympathy as we witness their struggle to conform to The Package Deal."
Stanley Brandes, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

In this important new work, Nicholas Townsend explores what men say about being fathers, and about what fatherhood means to them. He shows how men negotiate the prevailing cultural values about fatherhood, marriage, employment, and home ownership that he conceptualizes as a "package deal." Townsend identifies the conflicts and contradictions within the gendered expectations of men and fathers, and analyzes the social and economic contexts that make emotionally involved fathering an elusive ideal.

Drawing on the lives and life stories of a group of men in their late forties who graduated from high school together in the early 1970s, The Package Deal demystifies culture's image of fatherhood in the United States. These men are depicted as neither villains nor victims, but as making their best efforts to achieve successful adult masculinity. This book shows what fathers really think about fatherhood, the division of labor between fathers and mothers, the gendered difference in expectations, and the privileging of the relationship between fathers and sons.

These revealing accounts of how fatherhood fits into the rest of men's lives help us better understand what men can and cannot do as fathers. And they clearly illustrate that women are not alone in trying to "have it all" as they strive to combine work and family.

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Excerpt

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"What do men want? In this provocative and thoughtful book about a group of men who graduated from high school in the early l970s, the gifted anthropologist Nicholas Townsend gives us an answer. Despite powerful pressures on them to spend more time with their children, to share more chores with their working wives, to cut their commutes, to give up their part in suburban sprawl, the men Townsend came to know were keeping their eye on another ball—the package deal. Stubborn? Retrograde? Yes. But with a deep appreciation for the contradictions they face, the system of pride and dignity with which they live, Townsend explains why. This is a highly important book for men, and for those who are trying to change them."
Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Second Shift and The Time Bind

"By listening so carefully to men and women, by so carefully assessing the complex inter-connection of their lives and our cultural ideals, Townsend adds welcome nuance to the ongoing social and political discussion about fatherhood in America."
James A. Levine, Ed.D., Director, The Fatherhood Project, Families and Work Institute

"Townsend definitively delivers an excellent contribution."
INTAMS Review

"It is a real pleasure to see an anthropological approach being applied to research on family and fatherhood issues... Townsend's book is a unique and critical contribution to a discourse that links an anthropological approach to the sociological/psychological study of families and fatherhood."
Fathering

"The Package Deal makes a powerful contribution to ongoing debates about the roles, values, and meanings of fatherhood in contemporary American society.... Townsend does a magnificent job of bringing forth the voices of his respondents and providing emic views of contemporary fatherhood. His ethnography is masterful—deep, systematic, and insightful.... Townsend's study breaks new ground."
Anthropology of Work Review

"In addition to being an exceptional analytic ethnography, The Package Deal is a clear and learned introduction to the current state of knowledge about work, families, and gender. All those interested in contemporary fatherhood should read it without delay."
Social Forces

"This is an interesting book requiring careful reading but it is well worth the effort."
Journal of Comparative Family Studies

"The Package Deal is one of the best books about fatherhood to come out in a decade.... Townsend is both an excellent interviewer who captures the voices of his informants and an insightful critical analyst who interprets the men's accounts in light of research on gender and families."
Men and Masculinities

"We have far more insight into women’s than men’s work and family lives, which is why one of my favorite books of the past decade is Nicholas Townsend’s The Package Deal. Townsend’s in-depth interviews provide unique insights into how men view their contribution to the family and how they view parenting."
Contemporary Sociology

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Contents

Acknowledgments
1. Contradictions and Complications
2. Package Deals and Scripts
3. The Four Facets of Fatherhood
4. Marriage: The Women in the Middle
5. Employment as Fatherhood
6. Home Ownership: Housing the Family
7. Fathers of Fathers: Kinship and Gender
8. Implications
Appendix A: The Men from Meadowview High School
Appendix B: Bibliographic Essay
Notes
References
Index

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About the Author(s)

Nicholas W. Townsend has investigated the connections between men and families in the United States and southern Africa. He is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University.

Subject Categories

Gender Studies
Family Policy
Women's Studies

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