• Personal life, pragmatism and bricolage.

      Duncan, Simon (2011)
      Individualisation theory misrepresents and romanticises the nature of agency as a primarily discursive and reflexive process where people freely create their personal lives in an open social world divorced from tradition. But empirically we find that people usually make decisions about their personal lives pragmatically, bounded by circumstances and in connection with other people, not only relationally but also institutionally. This pragmatism is often non-reflexive, habitual and routinised, even unconscious. Agents draw on existing traditions - styles of thinking, sanctioned social relationships, institutions, the presumptions of particular social groups and places, lived law and social norms - to ¿patch¿ or ¿piece together' responses to changing situations. Often it is institutions that ¿do the thinking¿. People try to both conserve social energy and seek social legitimation in this adaption process, a process which can lead to a ¿re-serving¿ of tradition even as institutional leakage transfers meanings from past to present, and vice versa. But this process of bricolage will always be socially contested and socially uneven. In this way bricolage describes how people actually link structure and agency through their actions, and can provide a framework for empirical research on doing family.
    • Re-thinking family support in the current policy context.

      Featherstone, Brigid M. (2006)
      This article uses the concept of `the social investment state' to understand key aspects of New Labour's policies in relation to welfare reform. It argues that `investing in children' and creating `responsible parents' are vital features of many of the policies and service initiatives which have emerged since 1997. Such features have considerable implications for policies and practices in the arena of family support. The article goes on to outline aspects of an important critique of the social investment state which has emerged from those engaged in research and policy analysis who argue for a `political ethics of care'. It argues that this perspective offers important possibilities to family support advocates not only for critique, but also for articulating much needed policy alternatives to those currently being promoted by New Labour. It also signposts the importance of conducting ongoing research into the meanings which are being attached by individuals to complex and contested terms such as `family' and `support'.
    • Why do people live apart together?

      Duncan, Simon; Carter, J.; Phillips, M. (2013-09)
      Interpretations of living apart together (LAT) have typically counter-posed 'new family form' versus 'continuist' perspectives. Recent surveys, however, construct LAT as a heterogeneous category that supports a 'qualified continuist' position - most people live apart as a response to practical circumstances or as a modern version of 'boy/girlfriend', although a minority represents something new in preferring to live apart more permanently. This article interrogates this conclusion by examining in depth why people live apart together, using a nationally representative survey from Britain and interview accounts from 2011. Our analysis shows that LAT as a category contains different sorts of relationship, with different needs and desires. While overall coupledom remains pivotal and cohabitation remains the goal for most, LAT allows people flexibility and room to manoeuvre in adapting couple intimacy to the demands of contemporary life. Hence, we suggest, LAT is both 'new' and a 'continuation'.