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Changes in families and personal relationships: the implications for a political ethic of care Fiona Williams Director, ESRC Research Group on Care, Values.

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Presentation on theme: "Changes in families and personal relationships: the implications for a political ethic of care Fiona Williams Director, ESRC Research Group on Care, Values."— Presentation transcript:

1 Changes in families and personal relationships: the implications for a political ethic of care Fiona Williams Director, ESRC Research Group on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare (CAVA) University of Leeds

2 Families have changed – have ‘family values’ changed too? life after divorce; motherhood, work and care; non-conventional partnerships; transnational kinship; collective groups and organizations who mobilize around parenting and partnering issues.

3 Two interpretations of family change Loss of commitment and moral decline Greater individualization

4 New Labour on Parenting and Partnering Promotion of Adult worker model: tension – work/life balance Greater focus on parenting: tension – responsibilities or support? Best interests of the child: tension – children as current or future citizens? Acknowledgment of diversity: tension – who’s included?

5 Even though you separate or divorce, you still have a relationship […].looking after the children […] and it’s water under the bridge why you got divorced and the financial side, because you have to consider each other’s needs really.’ Smart and Neale, 2003

6 The changing shape and texture of commitment LATS - living apart together ‘ What makes it work? Probably the fact that we haven’t moved in together. Lucy was aware that I wouldn’t have been prepared to have her kids. I quite like the kids but…the family are fairly argumentative…I would have felt uncomfortable living with it and that was basically the fundamental reason.’ Smart and Neale, 2003

7 Sex, love and friendship ‘I think a friendship is for life, but I don’t think a partner is – I’d marry my friends. They’d last longer’. the 1960s - the uncoupling of sex from marriage the 1980s and 90s – separation of marriage and committed parenthood 2000s - committed sexual partnership and co-residence no longer important for some

8 Fairness? Whose fairness? ‘I think pretty much when they split up they decided that I should spend equal time at both houses or else it wouldn’t really be fair.’ (Wade and Smart, 2003).

9 The practical ethics of commitment: the compassionate realism of good enough care fairness, attentiveness to the needs of others, mutual respect, trust, reparation, being non-judgmental, adaptability to new identities, being prepared to be accommodating, and being open to communication.

10 Developing a Political Ethic of Care less anxiety that diverse living arrangements give rise to moral decline, social instability or lack of social cohesion. practical support for people to carry out their commitments, and to respect and recognize the diversity of commitments people have. Has to be the right sort of support: non-judgmental, fair, respectful and practical.

11 Four re-balancing acts Balance the ethic of work with the ethic of care. Balancing parental responsibilities with support and voice; Balancing investment in children with respect for childhood; Protecting diversity from inequality.

12 1. Balance the ethic of work with the ethic of care Interdependence Universal Care is part of citizenship

13 Balancing work and care Care of others: what do we need to meet our commitments to provide care and support properly for close kin and friends? Care of the self: what do we need in terms of time and space for the maintenance of body, mind and soul? Care of the World: what support do we need to be able to have a say, to contribute to, and participate in our communities?

14 time financial support services and practical support a social environment of care

15 2. Balance parental responsibilities with support for parents Care, Support and Voice rather than rights and responsibilities

16 Balancing investment in children with respect for childhood

17 Protect Diversity from Inequality

18 ‘Rethinking Families’– special conference price€7.00 – excellent for research and teaching + Social Policy and Society 3|(4)2004 Social Politics 11(2) 2004 Critical Social Policy, 24(3) 2004


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