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This article introduces the concept of dialectic icons: public figures who feature in contentious and polarising political discourse. The inflammatory quality of dialectic icons and their role as highly mediated symbols of conflict creates long-lasting emotional energy among audiences, who cluster in ideological camps as a response. However, these audiences can also actively and directly engage in and shape these discourses, particularly through social media. Examples of the public discourse about quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests illustrate how the controversiality, newsworthiness, interactivity and visibility of dialectic icons ultimately contribute to social polarisation. By focusing on dialectic icons as proxy battlegrounds for public audiences, this article establishes a useful concept for gaining fresh insights into collective meaning- and truth-making processes.

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In January 2023, Anders Rhiger Hansen visited Lund University to talk to Max Koch about sustainable welfare, human needs, social inequality and a little bit about Bourdieu. The message from Max was clear: politicians need to drop the idea of green growth and instead define a safe and just operating space to determine what can be done within this space. His sociological approach combines Marxian and Bourdieusean traditions, and he recommends that the Consumption and Society community investigates consumption in combination with processes of production, for example by engaging with critical political economy approaches such as the French regulation school or the Frankfurt School. According to Koch, the survival of the planet requires holistic approaches that would transform society and its exchanges with nature, based on principles of degrowth and on a scale that we have not yet seen.

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Many people have been labelled with psychiatric ‘diagnoses’ such as ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’. That was one of the labels that was bestowed on me, amongst others, incorrectly. This poem speaks to what I experienced.

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Industrially produced mass culture has the reputation of being uniform and monotonous, leaving hardly any room for originality and creativity. In stark contrast to this concept, other theorists of popular culture emphasise the increasing individuality of mass culture made possible by the increasing opulence and leisure time of the working masses followed by the marketing of consumer goods and services. Using the American automotive markets and the Soviet fashion industry as examples, the article addresses the role of fashion in promoting individuality in modern consumer culture questioning both Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s analysis of culture industry and Bourdieu’s analysis of the ‘down-to-earth’ taste of the working class. Critical Theory was right in referring to the culture industry, fashion included, as promoting pseudo-individuation, but not right in downplaying the role of the individual judgement of taste. Bourdieu was right in arguing that the social groups with little cultural and economic capital have hardly any role in challenging the legitimate taste, but not right in arguing that their taste is not an aesthetic taste at all. In analysing the relation between the individual and the social, or the particular and the general, in modern culture, one should pay more attention to the social formation of fashion, operative in consumer goods markets. The reconciliation between the individual and the social that fashion offers is real enough but takes place only provisionally and in a socially conforming manner challenging neither the social formation of fashion nor the general social order of the capitalist, commercial society.

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COVID-19-related social lockdowns had profound consequences in all aspects of social life, yet technology’s role in mediating relationships during lockdown has received little attention. Drawing on a survey of 565 young adults in the UK, we used mixed methods to explore (a) differences in technology use by people in serious romantic relationships (cohabiting vs. living apart together), casual relationships or single; and (b) how COVID-19 influenced long-term, serious relationships. For participants in a serious relationship, technology was used as a strategy to facilitate ongoing communication, enabling partners to achieve ‘intimacy from afar’. Qualitative analysis revealed five reasons (more free time, navigating lockdown restrictions, greater boredom, desire for love and miscellaneous) for online dating profile usage changes. People in serious relationships perceived deeper intimate bonds, boundary issues, less physical intimacy, difficulty with lockdown separation and greater negative impact because of COVID-19. Limitations and implications are discussed.

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This article investigates the extent to which parents believe they are better than average parents using data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. The article builds on a long tradition of sociological research focusing on the interconnections between parenting, class, education and inequality. We find that mothers with low levels of education are more likely to say they are average or worse than average parents. Relatedly, we show that those who are highly educated are more likely to consider themselves as being better than average, even when a range of child and mother characteristics such as mother’s mental health and child’s cognitive and socio-emotional development are considered. These findings are linked to research showing how certain groups of parents are stigmatised or valorised in popular and political discourse. Our article also extends scholarship by examining the connection between parental mental health and parental competence beliefs.

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As people live longer, there is an increasing possibility of couples becoming separated because one partner moves into a care home. Our qualitative mixed-method pilot study in an English town involved eight married couples aged over 65 years to explore experiences and practices of couplehood in these circumstances. This article focuses on the most striking emergent element of expressed couplehood in these now challenged long-term relationships: commitment. Drawing on in-depth (biographical) individual and joint interviews, observations and emotion maps, this article explores how separation affected the couples’ current sense and enactment of commitment to the relationship. Commitment in the partnership is now often one-sided. How committed the community-living partner feels – and its enactment – is heavily shaped by the shared history of happy and unhappy periods in the relationships, current contextual constraints, and family and institutional support.

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This article examines children’s and parents’ positions as rights holders and family members in child welfare decision making as seen by social workers who prepare child removal decisions. The study is based on qualitative interviews with social workers, each of which includes the story of one child’s case. The interviews were conducted in Finland, where the consent or objection expressed by parents and children of a certain age determine the decision-making process, as each of them can independently express a view about the removal proposal. The study highlights how family relatedness shapes the parties’ autonomy and self-determination through intergenerational, interparental and other dynamics of emotional and power relations. Relational autonomy is emphasised more than individual autonomy in the social workers’ descriptions. It is suggested that self-determination needs to be refined so that it acknowledges family relatedness as well as individuals as rights holders.

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The expansion of the UK’s support for families with children from the late 1990s was put into reverse over the decade from 2010. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore, parents may have felt that they had less support from the government and increased private responsibility in bringing up the next generation. Drawing on qualitative interviews with parents in England and Scotland claiming Universal Credit, this article analyses parenting experiences for low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular concerning the costs of looking after children, caring for children, and family relationships/mental health. Our findings suggest that the privatisation of parenting in the UK has been further reinforced during the pandemic, with largely negative implications for families with children. The positive experiences for some with families must be supported by public policy change to persist.

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