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What Are Children For?


A modern argument, grounded in philosophy and cultural criticism, about childbearing ambivalence and how to overcome it

Becoming a parent, once the expected outcome of adulthood, is increasingly viewed as a potential threat to the most basic goals and aspirations of modern life. We seek self-fulfillment; we want to liberate women to find meaning and self-worth outside the home; and we wish to protect the planet from the ravages of climate change. Weighing the pros and cons of having children, Millennials and Zoomers are finding it increasingly difficult to judge in its favor.

With lucid argument and passionate prose, Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman offer the guidance necessary to move beyond uncertainty. The decision whether or not to have children, they argue, is not just a women’s issue but a basic human one. And at a time when climate change worries threaten the very legitimacy of human reproduction, Berg and Wiseman conclude that neither our personal nor collective failures ought to prevent us from embracing the fundamental goodness of human life―not only in the present but, in choosing to have children, in the future.

“Resisting easy answers … [Berg and Wiseman] … offer scrupulous analysis enriched by vivid personal meditations …It’s an incisive look at a monumental life choice”―Publishers Weekly

“This is a brave, lucid book, and Berg and Wiseman deserve great credit for their readiness to ask tough questions.”―Kirkus Reviews

“In their widely researched and patiently argued book, Berg and Wiseman show how competing ideas about freedom, happiness, love, dignity, and justice attach to the increasingly ambivalent acts of having and raising children. What Are Children For? models the curiosity and the skepticism we need to imagine a collective future in dark times.”Merve Emre

“By far the most honest, unsentimental, unpredictable, and rigorously thoughtful exploration of parenting that I have ever read. Berg and Wiseman’s debut is a much-needed and impressively original inquiry into a topic that is almost always treated in deadeningly stale terms.”Becca Rothfeld

“A lucid and sophisticated treatment of a question we all share a stake in: Ought there be future generations? Carving out a conversation about parenthood and the future that’s undisturbed by the warping effects of the culture wars, the book ably addresses contemporary challenges to parenthood―both practical and political―while developing its own optimistic case for human life.”Elizabeth Bruenig

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