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What Is a Family and Why Does It Matter?

by Esther Dermott 1,* and Tim Fowler 2
1
School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1QU, UK
2
School for Politics, Sociology and International Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1QU, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(5), 83; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9050083
Received: 20 February 2020 / Revised: 10 April 2020 / Accepted: 5 May 2020 / Published: 14 May 2020
The family is increasingly a site of political intervention as a locus of pervasive social inequalities and a potential resource for resolving injustices. Contemporary political theory has engaged in extensive debate about what justice in the family requires, but rather less on how family is understood: ethicists have tended to use placeholder definitions which dismiss the need to engage with real-world practices. We show that this is problematic because it obscures morally important aspects of day to day family life and risks taking privileged positions as representative. The paper proposes that theorists could gain from adopting the sociological ‘family practice’ framework, which we argue can form the basis of a distinct and plausible ethical theory of family. This can provide a fruitful basis for further research and engagement in political debate because it better conceptualizes contemporary family life. The paper therefore also illustrates how research from empirical social sciences can be helpful to the development of normative principles. View Full-Text
Keywords: parenting; family practices; ethics; normative; political theory parenting; family practices; ethics; normative; political theory
MDPI and ACS Style

Dermott, E.; Fowler, T. What Is a Family and Why Does It Matter? Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 83.

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