Families and social policy

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  • Families and social policy
    • Donzelot: policing the family
      • Policy= form of state power and control over families
      • Foucault- sees power not just as something held by the government/state, but as diffused through society and found within all relationships
        • Sees professionals such as doctors and social workers as exercising power over their clients by using their expert knowledge to turn them into 'cases' to be dealt with
        • Social workers, health visitors and doctors use their knowledge to control and change families= 'the policing of families'
          • Surveillance is not targeted equally on all social classes. Poor families are more likely to be seen as a problem and the cause of crime and anti-social behaviour= professionals target for 'improvement'
            • Eg. Rachel Condry- the state may seek to control and regulate family life by imposing compulsory parenting orders through the courts. Parents of young offenders, truants or badly behave children may be forced to attend parenting classes to learn the 'correct' way to bring up their children
            • Marxists and feminists criticise for failing to identify who benefits from such policies of surveillance
              • Marxists= policies operate interests of capitalist class
              • Feminists- men are main beneficiaries
    • The New Right
      • Have encouraged change and helped to undermine the nuclear family
        • Brenda Almond- Laws making divorce easier=undermines marriage as a lifelong commitment
          • The introduction of civil partnerships= gives impression that state no longer sees heterosexual marriage as superior
          • Tax laws discriminate against conventional families with a sole male breadwinner. They cannot transfer the non-working partner's tax allowances to the working partner=pay more tax than dual-earner couples
      • Increased rights for unmarried cohabitants eg. adoption rights, succession to council house tenancies and pension rights when a partner dies= cohabitation&marriage similar
        • Sends out message that the state does not see marriage as special or better
      • Solution=cutting welfare benefits= tax reduced=fathers more incentive to work
        • Dependency culture- individuals come to depend on the state to support them and their children rather than being self-reliant
          • Threatens, the successful socialisation of the young & the maintenance of the work ethic among men
        • Denying council housing to unmarried teenage mothers would remove a major incentive to become pregnant young
          • Policies supporting the traditional nuclear family eg. taxes that famous married rather than cohabiting couples and making absent fathers financiallyresponsible for their children
            • The less the state interferes with the family the better family life will be
      • Criticism of New Right view:
        • Feminists- an attempt to justify a return to the traditional patriarchal family that subordinated women to men and confined them to a domestic role
        • Pam  Abbott and Claire Wallace- cutting benefits would simply drive many poor families into even greater poverty and make them even less self-reliant
        • The New Right ignore the many policies that support/maintain the conventional nuclear family  rather than undermine it
    • Dependency culture- individuals come to depend on the state to support them and their children rather than being self-reliant
      • Threatens, the successful socialisation of the young & the maintenance of the work ethic among men
    • Conservative governments- Mrs Thatcher banned the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities; including a ban on teaching that homosexuality was an acceptable family relationship
      • Defined divorce as a problem - emphasised the continued responsibility of parents for their children after divorce
        • Set up Child Support Agency to enforce maintenance payments by absent parents
      • Introduced measures making divorce easier and giving illegitimate (outside of marriage)children the same rights as those born to married parents
    • New labour policies favoured dual-earner net-conventional families
      • Longer maternity leave, 3 months unpaid leave for both parents and right to seek time off work for family reasons=made it easier for both parents to work
      • Working family tax credit, enabling parents to claim some tax relief on childcare costs
      • The New Deal, helping lone parents to return to work
      • Welfare, taxation and minimum wage policies were partly aimed at lifting children out of poverty by re-distributing income to the poor through higher benefits
      • Civil partnership for same-sex couples
      • Giving unmarried couples the same rights to adopt as married couples
      • Outlawing discrimination on grounds of sexuality
    • State vs market
      • Drew argues most European Union countries are moving towards more individualistic gender regimes
        • Policies such as funded childcare don't come cheap=major conflicts about who should benefit and who should pay for them
          • Feminists- since the global recession in 2008, cutbacks in government spending throughout Europe have led to pressure on women take more responsibility for caring for family members as the state retreats from providing welfare
            • During this period- trend towards neoliberal welfare policies= individuals/families are encouraged to use the market rather than the state to meet their needs
              • eg. through private pension provision and private care of the old


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