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Title: The politics of the family and family therapy : a critical analysis of theory and practice
Author: Tew, Jerry
ISNI:       0000 0001 3516 4142
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1992
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This thesis aims to develop a new theoretical framework by which to understand family organisation and the processes of family therapy from a political perspective - a framework that will highlight (changing) power relationships rather than assume some notion of functional order. In constructing and evaluating such a theoretical framework, I will draw upon the traditions of critical theory and qualitative research. My starting points are an overview of existing critical understandings of 'the family', and an examination of how 'power' itself may be theorised in a rigorous manner. I will review how such perspectives may expose specific relations of oppression or recognition that underpin particular forms of organisation, from the scale of the social formation as a whole to that of 'the individual'. Psychoanalysis and discourse theory have provided concepts whereby to deconstruct the dynamics of 'the individual' - in particular the concept of 'subjectivity' - which I will develop further so as to encompass participation, not just in discursive structures, but also in structures of emotional and material relations. In a critical appraisal of the various theoretical and practice traditions within family therapy, I will look at how the hegemony of systems theory has begun to be questioned and alternative metaphors for familial organisation proposed. However, as I will argue, none of these provide a satisfactory basis for understanding power relations in the family. I will therefore go on to apply a new conceptualisation of family organisation - that of 'subjectivity' - which is developed out of the theoretical traditions discussed earlier. I will theorise 'the family', not just as the context in which individual subjectivity may be constructed, but as an entity that may be seen to participate in the social formation as a subjectivity in its own right. Instead of understanding familial organisation as a natural outcome of self-regulating processes (as in systems theory), it may thus be seen to reflect the ways in which a family may have been constructed as a subjectivity in and by an oppressive social formation - its coherence only being maintained by a degree of internal violence and repression. Building on this, I will develop a theoretical framework by which to analyse, from a political perspective, the breakdown of family functioning and the specific ways in which the organisation of family life may be reconstructed through the processes of family therapy. Following on from this, I will test out the value of the theoretical framework in an analysis of three examples of family therapy practice. My source material is transcripts taken from videotapes of actual family sessions, and these are analysed in terms of the evidence they provide of minute-by-minute changes in power relations within family organisation (often in response to particular interventions by the therapist). Out of this in-depth study of a small number of case examples, my primary aim will be to assess the practical value of the various elements of the theoretical framework in exposing how familial power relations have been structured and how (and whether) they may be modified during the course of family therapy. In turn, this may enable me to reach some preliminary conclusions as to how specific family therapy interventions may affect family organisation in ways that are either oppressive or empowering.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: RC Internal medicine