Economic Justice and the "Mommy Essay

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The question is, how does one decide which path is more beneficial?

John Stuart Mill in Utilitarianism in the Philosophy of J.S. Mill, raised similar concerns when he stated:

"…any, even unintentional, deviation from truth does that much toward weakening the truth-worthiness of human assertion, which is not only the principal of all present social well-being but the insufficiency of which does more than any one thing that can be named to keep back civilization, virtue, everything on which human happiness on the largest scale depends" (p. 349).

Considering that human happiness is a subjective commodity that varies for every individual in its "truth," then whether or not one perceives the mommy track trend to be in line with utilitarian principles ultimately depends on one's personal definition of the greater good. From the utilitarian perspective (i.e. Mill), the wishes of the individual must be forsaken for the long-term "big picture." Thus in this view, although a mother may experience an initial loss in income by choosing to spend more quality time raising her children, in the long run (at least theoretically) society will benefit from having more well-adjusted children. These children will grow up an make up for the financial burdens initially applied by the mother working less, because they are better raised and therefore more likely to be productive members of society. Therefore the investment of spending more time with the children represents a reasonable choice that is aligned with utilitarian perspectives. So while it may be difficult to determine whether contributing to the productive workforce is more of a moral priority than spending quality time with family, when one compares the long-term with the short-term, the vision of the 'greater good' becomes much clearer.
After all, the greater good is not just about the actual number of people, but also the long-term consequences vs. The short-term consequences.

AT the same time, however, one must consider what the consequences are of the mommy track on the glass ceiling. Women have spent the last several decades trying to break through the glass ceiling by demanding equal treatment. So are women ultimately hurting themselves and society by now demanding special treatment? According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, they are not, because companies "are increasingly willing to change the criteria for young mothers to reach top positions, giving them more time or the ability to leave for several years of child-raising and come back . Breast-feeding lounges, support groups, mentors and sabbaticals have become more commonplace as services for working mothers seeking to break the glass ceiling" (cited in Morgan-Steiner 1).


As society changes, priorities tend to shift as well. Women have gone from "supermoms" to "soccer moms" to "mommy track" moms in a period of 30 years. As these priorities change, then so does the definition of the greater good. The utilitarian perspective offers an intriguing glimpse into the dynamics of economic justice as priorities continue to evolve. Thus while the basic tenets of utilitarianism remain unchanged, the manner in which they are applied must shift with the priorities of society in order to be valid.

Works Cited

Mill, John Stuart ed. By M. Cohen, Utilitarianism in the Philosophy of J.S. Mill, New York: The Modern Library, 1961. Print.

Morgan-Steiner, Leslie. "Going Places on the Mommy Track" the Washington Post. Web. 29 April 2010.

Palmer, Kimberly. "The New Mommy Track." U.S. News and World Reports (26 August,.....

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