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The Policing of Families Paperback – May 19, 1997

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Paperback, May 19, 1997
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Editorial Reviews


"This is a superb book, an absolutely indispensable book, which cuts through old debates about the family and helps put the whole subject on a new footing." -- Christopher Lasch, New York Review of Books

"The book is heavy going, but worth the effort... [It] illustrates an important problem of modern society: our crises themselves have become socially useful." -- Richard Sennett, New York Times Book Review

"Donzelot... [has] written a brilliant book on the intersection of society and family... [It] is an immensely rich book that needs to be studied carefully and read slowly. It is sure to place the social history of the past two centuries on an entirely new footing." -- Mark Poster, American Journal of Sociology

"A provocative and challenging work." -- America

Book Description

A student and colleague of Michel Foucault shows how public intervention in family affairs since the eighteenth century effected radical changes in a traditionally private domain.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (May 19, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801856493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801856495
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,330,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Donzelot's historical review of the French government's attempt to engineer society via force homogenization of family structures is not only a message of the historical conditions of the early 1900s. It is also an intimidating description of what can happen when social engineering goes bad. The book describes the mechanization not only of the centralized institutions such as the judicial system, but also of local agencies, such individual philanthropists and community help organizations.
Donelot traces the transition of control from the Church where priests constructed the images of the "ideal" family to educational, judicial, medical and psychiatric constructed images of the ideal family. In all cases, Donzelot is able to illustrate how the structural construction of familial roles fails to inculcate meaning into familial life. Moreover, he is able to illustrate how these maneuvers actually inhibit meaning or destroy already existing emotionally supportive structures. His writing is a critically important look back in time that allows a clearer vision of the future of the interrelations of social structures and individual lives.
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Through the 18th and 19th centuries in France, through various means, but particularly by the juvenile courts and its assemblage of notables, including mothers, which Donzelot calls the tutelage complex, families became a mechanism through which the government extended its control over workers, particularly 'delinquents,' rendering them docile by increasingly severe oversight, successively imposed by mothers, social workers and ultimately penal authorities. In contrast, for the bourgeois, the family was reoriented away from its former purposes of self-aggrandizement and propertied alliances toward the protection and cultivation of children. While working class and bourgeous children alike became subject to school supervision and education, bourgeois families also employed private extracurricular education to assure advancement and address the problem of 'difficult children.' Counselors spoke to the entire family, not offering prescriptions but therapy, maturation not being measured as the acceptance of duty, but a negotiated rapprochement, having the consequence of releasing well-to-do mothers to find a measure of sexual liberation. Thus, while a state-sponsored institution, the meaning of family manifested very contingently and particularly, depending on the power of its members, particularly, and ultimately, in their relation to the state. Donzelot especially marvels at the way psychotherapy could be employed for such varied and contradictory purposes, suggesting that Freud was to psychiatry and medicine what Keynes was to economics, each making necessity appear provisional.
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By M. Martin on February 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
one month later, I still haven't received what I ordered. I usually receive my orders from amazon sellers in a timely manner. Contacted the seller and no reply. I really need this product, too.
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