Book Review Essay

Perfectionist Policies in Family Law

Linda McClain’s book, The Place of Families: Fostering Capacity, Equality, and Responsibility, offers a thoughtful approach to government policy in family matters, grounded on what McClain calls “toleration as respect,” in which the government has a role in improving individuals and social institutions, while valuing personal and collective self-government and making a range of choices available. McClain’s ap-proach combines elements of liberalism, feminism, and civic republican-ism.In the context of considering McClain’s proposals regarding marital equality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and sex education, this review es-say considers the problem of persuasion and social reform. In a country where many voters and officials do not share the values and proposals McClain endorses, how would one go about effecting the reforms she wants? This review essay, using examples from sex education and same-sex marriage, considers the possibilities, and limits, associated with find-ing points of agreement, or seeking the common ground of consequential-ism.

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