Critical Theory of the Family

Critical Theory
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The explanation of a set of practices as a ritual, healing or bonding will eventually reach the persons that carry out these practices and change their self-interpretation and possibly the practices themselves. Even if they never get in touch with the scientists and do not read their work, representatives of the state or NGOs will adjust their behavior to the scientific explanations and thereby influence the object. This is hard to accept. We strive for objectivity and are inclined to say that a statement is true or false.

If we predict the result of an election, the prediction is true or false or at least statistically correct Hempel, However, it is well-known that election predictions influence the outcome. In order to actually scientifically test a prediction, it needs to be kept secret until the election is over. In such isolated cases, some degree of objectivity is possible. They remain isolated because the results of the election prediction and their methodology will become known to some degree and thereby influence all other election research and the strategies of political parties.

An objective reproduction of the prediction is hardly possible since it will influence the object eventually. He or she will adapt future voting behavior and possibly the interpretation of the meaning and usefulness of elections to the research results. Even if the person is not member or supporter of any political party which he or she often is, however , the behavior at the polling station of this particular person will be influenced by his or her own research.

The epistemological consequence of this interdependence is the necessity of critically reviewing the underlying assumptions of society and social science and tracing their impact. This is linked to values since society is not merely the attempt of knowing the truth but also a network of lives. To a small but inextinguishable degree, this is the case for science itself as well. This implies that social science can never be fully dissociated from its own social conditions. Therefore, it cannot be universal in the strong sense, even if the relevant social conditions were shared by all societies.

They may change in the future. A social scientist has to critically reflect on the social conditions of his or her own science. He or she also has to clearly identify the social conditions of the object.

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Any insight gained in the social sciences is only valid for the reflection on the particular social conditions of the object and the subject. The research has to include its theoretical, methodological and empirical grounds and limitations.

It is not valid for all instances but for those specified and to the degree that their social conditions have been critically reviewed. This is more than relativism but less than a universal truth. I would argue that this practice comes close to what we try to do in the social sciences anyway. A true statement clarifies what can be known from a certain perspective for a defined period and object, including why and how.

The statement achieves more truth by including more empirical cases, more areas of research and more methods, especially if it integrates similar research in different contexts and theoretical traditions. This interaction leads to the discovery of limitations, blind spots and flaws and broadens the empirical reality, which the statement refers to.

I claim that much empirical research actually proceeds by establishing configurations. The idea of a configurational social science implies a hermeneutical approach to research. There is no basic truth that could serve as the starting point, no formally clear result or endpoint and no recipe.

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All that is possible is to establish configurations, contrast them with new empirical cases and conflicting theories and improve them by removing shortcomings and discovering blind spots from other perspectives. This dialectic resembles the approach proposed by Hegel More precisely, it can be characterized as a sociological revision of Hegel. A history of social and intellectual standpoints replaces the notion of history as the manifestation of truth Haraway, That history contains the interaction of standpoints along with their related conditions and consequences.

There is a great variety of perspectives and theories, all of which cannot be integrated into one single approach. This does not entail relativism but is rather entirely empirical in nature: we can only think within certain boundaries, which are expanded by constructing configurations. Subsequent to the acquisition or discovery of new knowledge, one becomes a new person and sees the world in a different light. Memory and criticism are decisive factors in the process.

Social science has to deal with different or even competing concepts, theories, perspectives, types of society and values. From the outset, it is not evident whether a certain set of practices is an animistic ritual, a healing procedure or a bonding exercise. It may be all of them at the same time — from different perspectives or for different actors. The different perspectives may represent different theoretical schools, but they may also represent different social groups or types of society. The interpretation implies a value judgement about the arrangement of society.

It is necessary to critically review the social conditions of the subject and the object because they are interdependent with social science itself. It is not sufficient to simply understand all standpoints and then contrast them to form a configuration. First, not all perspectives are equal or have the possibility to enter the configuration.

Second, the conditions and the consequences of science may be negatively valued: destructive, exploiting, oppressive, distorting or misleading. Habermas is satisfied when an agreement is reached. Postcolonialism has challenged this conception by asking why and on what grounds the communicating partners agree Spivak, Most people and most approaches to truth do not have the means to make themselves understood.

These means can be technological, economic, intellectual, linguistic or academic Alatas, As long as it was taken for granted that none of those who did not belong to the European elite of scholars had anything relevant to say because they were supposedly underdeveloped, this lack of means was not an issue. But if we conceive of the hermeneutic dialectic as a process of learning, we have to actively look for that which we do not know Connell, One has to understand those who speak another language in their language, those who have a different idea of society within their society and those who have a different idea of or even dismiss truth on their own grounds.

Postcolonial critique not only points to the issue of power relations within science. It also exposes parochial Eurocentrism in philosophers like Gadamer or Hegel. As long as science is rooted in European traditions, divergences in epistemology and issues of power can easily be neglected. However, I disagree with postcolonialism on the interpretation of inequality. Postcolonial scholars, who often reside in Harvard or Oxford, claim that the subaltern cannot speak Spivak, Of course, the subalterns have been deprived of important symbolic and material means but they still have their social reality, which they can express.

Most postcolonial scholars simply do not bother to talk to them.

Critical Theory

The approach outlined above comprises the necessity to go and learn empirically, not just at the desk. If one does, it becomes evident that the social world does not consist of two binary blocs, the bad dominating and the good dominated. Instead, I would propose a critical theory, which is sociologically applied philosophy and not desk-study Rehbein, In order to move beyond provincial forms of social science, this study has to be of global reach conducted by multicultural teams, ideally consisting of all members of all societies.

They would not generate any universal truth but expand the horizon of society and social science to the degree that one could speak of the best possible knowledge. Social inequality limits the scientific process of learning both on the level of social conditions and on the level of practice. Arguably, it is the most significant ethical and epistemological problem of the social sciences.

In terms of epistemology, the postcolonial critique has already generated important insights that remind of the arguments advanced by the decolonial critique developed in Latin America e. Mignolo, As argued in the preceding section, we need to apply the critique of power not only to the organization of science but also to epistemology and the organization of society itself. Against this background, the following paragraphs will develop the claim that the core problem is domination and that domination is structurally rooted in inequality.

Unequal access to science is a major issue connected with inequality. If the social sciences are rooted in the limited perspective of only a fraction of the population, they are neither correct in the sense of a configuration nor are they ethically acceptable.

What is worse, if the social sciences do not deal with the problem of inequality with regard to society itself, they contribute to its persistence. This is also true if they misinterpret it. A neutral description of inequality in society is not possible since this description will influence society and thereby either contribute to the persistence or the reduction of inequality. This issue lies at the origin of critical theory. The young Marx Marx, , p.

This idea was picked up by the Frankfurt School Adorno, And to a significant degree, it still inspires recent critical theories, such as those of Habermas and Honneth. The power differentials within science and with regard to access to science as well as an inhumane society are linked to inequality. We tend to think that inequality is an unequal distribution of resources, especially money.

However, any inequality is rooted in social structures that give some social groups more access to socially valued goods, practices and positions than others. It is a structure generating differences in power — or possibilities in a wide sense. Critical theory so far has been limited by its Eurocentrism. But it is also distorted by its focus on capitalism and the economy.

All major critical theorists have claimed that inequality is rooted in the unequal distribution of means of production or economic capital. They argue that the economy is more fundamental than other aspects of society. I wish to dispute this claim. I argue that inequality is more fundamental than the economy. The economy is only the most important dimension of inequality and its reproduction in capitalist societies. However, domination as a structure is more fundamental than capitalism.

Inequality in economic capital is the result of structural inequality and not the other way around. And the abolishment of capitalism would not abolish inequality, but the abolishment of inequality would — almost logically — do away with capitalism. If we pay attention to this issue, we discover that Marx developed two approaches to inequality and distinguished two different systems of class, which we might call economic and social, following Max Weber In the Communist manifesto Marx and Engels, , Marx distinguished between the capitalist class, the laboring class, the petty bourgeoisie in between the two and the so-called lumpenproletariat at the bottom.

The capital Marx, , in contrast, mentioned only two classes, capital and labor.

Interpretations of Marx have neglected the earlier interpretation of class in favor of The capital, which mainly deals with the economy and ends with the notion of class in an economic sense. However, it is evident that not every manager or actor, who makes a lot of money, has enough economic capital to act as a capitalist or automatically becomes a member of the upper class.

But it is true that every family of the upper class that does not play the game of capitalism will eventually lose its membership of the upper social class. This illustrates the relationship but also the difference between social and economic class. Even the upper social class has to reproduce its position in a capitalist society using the economy and economic capital.

They may go bankrupt, while others may accumulate enough wealth to become members of the economic capitalist class. In either case, a change of social class may be the result of a change in economic class. But more commonly, a member of the upper social class will have enough economic as well as cultural, symbolic and social capital to be in a better position in the capitalist market than any competitor from the lower classes and therefore remain in the upper class Bourdieu, Membership in the upper social class opens up all options for becoming or remaining a capitalist, while membership in the upper economic class without other types of capital only qualifies for being rich.

Therefore, social class is more fundamental than economic class. This can be verified historically. Most people occupy a similar relative social position as their ancestors. Often, the social position can even be traced back to a corresponding social position in the precapitalist hierarchy Jodhka et al.

That is, the descendant of a peasant usually is a member of the lower class today, while the descendant of a noble family is member of the upper class. The introduction of capitalism was a revolution, but a revolution is not a creation out of nothing. It entails socioeconomic mobility, separates social structure from the division of labor and creates a whole new range of professions for all social groups.

But it does not abolish older inequalities, it only transforms them and makes them invisible. Edward P. Thompson demonstrated the continuity and transformation of a class with the advent of capitalism in England. He defined classes not merely on the basis of capital but also interpreted them as cultures with a common practice.

His central argument was that practices are not created spontaneously but are passed on through training from one generation to the next. On the one hand, these practices are subject to constant change because they relate to and influence each other, on the other hand, they create and continue long traditions. A social class or tradition line passes on core elements of habitus and capital from one generation to the next and distinguishes itself actively and passively from other classes.

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Hereby, it erects limits to social mobility and opportunities. On this basis, it is possible to identify social classes empirically. The limits of social mobility and of access to activities are the limits of a social class. An increase in one type of capital is not equivalent to mobility. Gopal Guru , p. A Dalit millionaire remains a Dalit. Guru adds that a Dalit becoming a millionaire has one main effect, namely the legitimation of capitalism.

Most proponents of critical theory were unable to see this because of their focus on economic capital and labor. The successful struggle for economic capital renders the mechanisms of social inequality invisible. I define social class as a tradition line with a common culture which reproduces itself from one generation to the next by passing on relevant capital and symbolically delimiting itself from the other classes Jodhka et al.

Applying Critical Social Theories to Family Therapy Practice AFTA SpringerBriefs in Family Therapy

To some the family is boring, stifling and intrusive; to others it is loving, companionate and intimate. And so it goes with the family, back and forth with no sign of agreement on the horizon.

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Just at a time when public concern for the family is widespread, social scientists have little theoretical clarity to offer. People are intensely interested in finding out how the family is faring, how it has evolved from the past and what forms it may take in the future.

Yet social science does not have an adequate definition of the family, or a coherent set of categories from which to analyze it, or a rigorous conceptual scheme to specify what is significant about it. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate the weaknesses of existing theories of the family in the fields of history, sociology and psychology and to offer at least the beginnings of a more adequate theory. Family history provides an example of some of the theoretical deficiencies. With a dominant empiricist tradition, historians have come to the field of family history without a clear sense of what the significant questions are. Both feminist and masculist authors have decried such predetermined roles as unjust. In the United States, Skip to main content. Search for:. Sociological Perspectives on Family The Functionalist Perspective Functionalists view the family unit as a construct that fulfills important functions and keeps society running smoothly.

Learning Objectives Explain the social functions of the family through the perspective of structural functionalism. Key Takeaways Key Points Functionalists identify a number of functions families typically perform: reproduction; socialization; care, protection, and emotional support; assignment of status; and regulation of sexual behavior through social norms. For functionalists, the family creates well-integrated members of society by instilling the social culture into children.

These clans emerge from family units. Key Terms family : A group of people related by blood, marriage, law or custom. Radcliffe-Brown : A British social anthropologist from the early twentieth century who contributed to the development of the theory of structural-functionalism.

The Conflict Perspective The conflict perspective views the family as a vehicle to maintain patriarchy gender inequality and social inequality in society. Learning Objectives Analyze the family from the perspective of conflict theory. Key Takeaways Key Points The conflict perspective describes the inequalities that exist in all societies globally, and considers aspects of society as ways for those with power and status to maintain control over scare resources. Through inheritance, the wealthy families are able to keep their privileged social position for their members.

Conflict theorists have seen the family as a social arrangement benefiting men more than women. Conflict Perspective : A perspective in the social sciences that emphasizes the social, political or material inequality of a social group; critiques the broad socio-political system; or otherwise detracts from structural functionalism and ideological conservativism. The Symbolic Interactionist Perspective Symbolic interactionists view the family as a site of social reproduction where meanings are negotiated and maintained by family members. Learning Objectives Analyze family rituals through the symbolic interactionalist perspective.

Key Takeaways Key Points Symbolic interactionism is a theory that analyzes patterns of communication, interpretation, and adjustment between individuals in society. The theory is a framework for understanding how individuals interact with each other and within society through the meanings of symbols. Role-taking emerges at an early age through activities such as playing house. Symbolic interactionists explore the changing meanings attached to family. Symbolic interactionists argue that shared activities help to build emotional bonds, and that marriage and family relationships are based on negotiated meanings.

The interactionist perspective emphasizes that families reinforce and rejuvenate bonds through symbolic rituals such as family meals and holidays. The Feminist Perspective Feminists view the family as a historical institution that has maintained and perpetuated sexual inequalities.

Learning Objectives Describe the goals of first and second-wave feminism. Key Takeaways Key Points Feminism is a broad term that is the result of several historical social movements attempting to gain equal economic, political, and social rights for women. First-wave feminism focused mainly on legal equality, such as voting, education, employment, the marriage laws, and the plight of intelligent, white, middle-class women.