The neoliberal mom: how a discursive coalition shapes low-income mothers’ labor market participation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has elucidated the conflict low-income mothers face when trying to comply with the imperatives of the neoliberalism and mothering discourses. Feminist scholars have argued that low-income mothers’ alternative conceptions of morality and behavior constitute an act of resistance to inferiorizing definitions embedded in these discourses. Drawing on this literature, I offer a new conceptualization of the seemingly contradictory discourses. Based on interviews with 48 low-income Israeli mothers, I suggest that the neoliberal ideology is not limited to the neoliberal discourse, which primarily measures the individual's commitment to the labor market, but rather has diffused into the mothering discourse, which sets the standards for good mothering. This diffusion constructs a discursive coalition of ‘neoliberal moms’, wherein the current hegemonic notion of good mothering and the neoliberal call for personal responsibility intersect and shape mothers’ perceptions and decision-making processes. Moreover, the neoliberal mom constructs an alternative morality: moral motherhood. Accordingly, the moral component of good mothering means taking personal responsibility to act in ways that promote one's children's future inclusion. I argue that the discursive coalition framework helps us to better understand mothers’ labor force entries and exits, and how these constitute a way of negotiating paths to social inclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-518
Number of pages18
JournalCommunity, Work and Family
Issue number4
StatePublished - 7 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • mothering
  • neoliberalism
  • poverty
  • work–family conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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