The gendered politics of generational contracts : changing discourses and practices of intergenerational commitments in West Germany
In the context of policy recommendations to re-establish intergenerational equity this thesis enquires into the ways in which intergenerational relations in Germany became framed by the metaphor of the generational contract. Taking gender as an analytical tool, the thesis explored the discursive repertoires of generation and contract in a historical perspective. On this basis social contract theories are analysed with respect to the conflicting justifications they establish for the regulation of intergenerational relations. The analysis then focuses on how generational politics in the German welfare state drew on these justifications and how the generational contract came to be associated with fraud. It is argued that the ruse of the metaphor of the generational contract was its claim to embody social solidarity 'for all' Germans, while constituting and maintaining divisions of gender and social class in and by a social insurance system tailored to the male life course. Women's positioning in the proposed measures to restructure the generational contract reveals its inherent multiplicity and contradictory structure. Arguing that intergenerational relationships in families have been mostly taken for granted, the thesis develops the heuristic framework of kinscripts in order to analyse the micro-politics of intergenerational commitments of members of two family generations that are cast as antagonists in the alleged resource competition: women of the welfare generation and their adult children. Deploying an innovative set of methods based on the problem-centred interview the empirical analysis produced rich evidence of the ambivalences of intergenerational commitments, their continuities and changes. The analysis uncovers the social logic of 'contracts of need' shaped by situational and contextual pressures and the constraints and possibilities that kin networks opened up for women in post-war Germany. In contrast the narratives of the adult children reveal as yet a more symbolic meaning of intergenerational relations although in the anticipation of parental care needs gendered and classed responsibilities reappeared. On the basis of the theoretical and empirical findings it is argued that the frame of generational accounting systems has to be broadened to include kin work. Implications for multigenerational social policies are outlined.