The relationship between the family and civil society has always been complex, with the family often regarded as separate from, or even oppositional to, civil society.
Taking a fresh empirical approach, Muddiman, Power and Taylor reveal how such separation underestimates the important role the family plays in civil society. Considering the impact of family events, dinner table debates, intergenerational transmission of virtues and the role of the mother, this enlightening book draws on survey data from 1000 young people, a sample of their parents and grandparents, and extended family interviews, to uncover how civil engagement, activism and political participation are inherited and fostered within the home.
This chapter draws together the insights that this book offers into the relationship between the family and civil society, underscoring the methodological and theoretical implications of this empirical work. The book argues that the role of the family in civil society has been largely overlooked in the social sciences, with the two domains often being presented as completely separate and, in some cases, as oppositional to one another. The goal is to empirically investigate the extent to which family relationships and connections can help in understanding civic and political engagement. The chapter then revisits the initial research questions outlined in the first chapter and reflects on how the book has contributed to knowledge on intergenerational relations, the domestic division of labour, and the public–private binary in relation to civil society engagement. It also identifies remaining gaps in the understanding of this area, and sketches out some future directions in this field.
This chapter evaluates all of those factors that might complicate the straightforward sharing of values and practices between different family members. The family is widely regarded as a socialising agent, and parents, in particular, are seen to play a pivotal role in providing their children with a framework for interpreting and navigating the social world. However, there are manifold other events, relationships, and experiences that combine to shape an individual’s perspective of, and engagement with, civil society. Drawing on survey, interview, and family tree data, the chapter considers the range of influences that participants identified, highlighting some of the things that might frustrate the intergenerational sharing of values and practices. It also looks at variation and difference within families, investigating how the bringing together of two previously unconnected families through marriage or partnership is negotiated in relation to social and political perspectives.
This chapter explains that it is in the area of religious practice that the uncertainties of intergenerational transmission are most clearly demonstrated. All available evidence indicates that religious affiliation is inherited from parents. However, that is only part of the story. The chapter focuses on the precariousness of religious transmission and seeks to explore: first, what family and lifecourse events appear to disrupt an inheritance of faith; and, second, what the implications are for young people’s civic engagement. In addition to examining the levels and processes of the intergenerational transmission of faith (or its absence), it discusses how religious affiliation is reflected in particular kinds of associational membership, levels of volunteering, and other kinds of social activism.
This chapter assesses the central role that mothers and grandmothers play in sharing civic and pro-social values with younger generations. The data suggest that positive intergenerational relationships with female family members are associated with meaningful or mutually beneficial civic participation. Accounts from mothers and grandmothers in the study indicate that they play important roles in maintaining family closeness over time and suggest that (in)formal voluntary work is often seen as an extension of the maternal caring role. This is suggestive of a matrilineal transmission of civic values, with mothers and grandmothers as the most significant agents, and offers strong support to the arguments long made by feminist scholars for better recognition of the role of women in civil society. Here, the data portray the domestic or personal domain as a political space.
This chapter addresses the socially significant nature of family arguments. Existing research on family arguments is usually undertaken from a psychological perspective and presents family arguments as either an indicator of family dysfunction or an inevitable stage of the lifecourse. However, the data demonstrate that arguments in the home not only reveal something about the social context in which parents raise their children, but may also be important for wider civic engagement. The chapter describes the distribution and frequency of family arguments as reported by young people and their parents, as well as those issues that appear to generate the most conflict. It also explores the potentially transformative dimensions of family arguments, revealing a significant and positive relationship between families that argue and young people’s levels of civic participation. It is quite possible to view young people’s dissent as the means by which they find their ‘voice’ and a necessary precursor to future civic engagement and political activism.
This chapter describes the role of family mealtimes and shared food practices in fostering skills and values that may be of benefit to civil society. A number of scholars have emphasised the importance of food and mealtimes for family life, and the chapter extends this argument by outlining the ways in which skills and values developed in family food spaces can shape and inform political and civic activities. Indeed, the relationship between families and food is one of the most socially significant, highly charged, and politically contested issues in contemporary Britain. The chapter then demonstrates how shared family meals provide an important environment for civic and political socialisation. It also considers the provision of food itself as symbolic of care both within and beyond the family home, before turning to moral and ethical values attributed to certain foods.
This chapter explores the significance of younger generations in changing their parents’ and grandparents’ perspectives, moving beyond common conceptualisations of the one-directional sharing of values and practices from older to younger generations. Drawing on the interview data, it focuses on the synergistic learning experiences described by parents and grandparents. The chapter looks at how conversations with younger generations can prompt reflection on deeply held values and attitudes, and can contribute to a shift in perspectives. Most notably, it details how the rising prominence of environmental concerns has been brought to the attention of older family members, and how environmentalism is brought into the family home via knowledges and practices learnt by younger family members in the classroom. The chapter also considers how discussions with children and grandchildren present an opportunity for parents and grandparents to ‘update’ their perspectives on gender and sexuality.
This chapter provides an overview of the relationship between civil society and the family. Despite the family’s central role in social, cultural (and biological) reproduction, it is largely absent from the majority of contemporary literature on civil society. This is surprising given the continued importance of family life in the routines and responsibilities of individuals around the world. Ideas (or ideals) about family life colour one’s decisions about where to work, where to live and how to spend one’s time and money. This book explores the extent to which family relationships and connections can help in understanding civic and political engagement. Exploring the relationship between civil society and the family is important not only to fill a gap in the literature, but also because the family will become an increasingly important agent of social change.
This chapter discusses the paradoxical positioning of the family and civil society. This paradox arises from the ways in which civil society is variously defined through a series of binary oppositions — in relation to each of which the family sits uneasily. The chapter begins by outlining how the ‘family’ has traditionally been conceptualised in relation to civil society. These representations are not only contradictory, but also based on value-laden representations of both the family and civil society that are ideologically rather than empirically underpinned. In general, within much of the academic literature, there has been a tendency to uphold the virtues of the ‘public sphere’ against the self-interestedness of the ‘private sphere.’ The chapter concludes by arguing for the importance of empirical rather than just theoretical research on the interface between the ‘public’ and the ‘private’.