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Wishful Thinking and Harmful Tinkering? Sociological Reflections on Family Policy

  • CAROL SMART (a1)
    • Published online: 01 July 1997
Abstract

In popular and political debate there is currently a theme which dominates discussion about the family and this is the theme of decline and destabilisation caused by the rise of individualism and lack of moral fibre. There is a wishful thinking intrinsic to these debates in which it is hoped that the family can be returned to an idealised state, unaffected by other social changes. Recent sociological work on the family interprets changes to family life rather differently and therefore offers an important counter-discourse. Although there are certain limitations to the new theoretical work on the family provided by Giddens and Beck, it is argued here that their work provides a broad understanding of change which is not reducible to individual motivations and moral decline. These perspectives are particularly important at a time when family law is engineering policies to change the very nature of post-divorce family life. Because these changes are based on a narrow understanding of change, it is suggested that they amount to harmful tinkerings which misconstrue the wider context within which families are being transformed.

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
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