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New Labour’s communitarianism, supporting families and the ‘rationality mistake’: Part II
University of Exeter (University of Wales Aberystwyth at time of writing); University of Bradford
Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law
In Part I of this paper we argued that New Labour is keen to use legislation to promote what it sees as desirable family forms and to discourage other, less favoured family practices. The codification of this approach in the 1998 Green Paper Supporting Families – and in particular the ‘New Deal for Lone Parents’- was compared with recent empirical research on how people make decisions about their moral economies. We concluded that the government’s approach is subject to a ‘rationality mistake’ – people do not make decisions in the way the government assumes and hence legislation can be inefficient or even oppressive. Part II of the paper goes on to examine this contention further, this time focusing on chapter 4 of the Green Paper, indicatively entitled Strengthening Marriage. Using recent empirical research on mothers’ views on marriage and cohabitation, we find further evidence of the ‘rationality mistake’ where the government has misunderstood the ways in which people make decisions about partnering, and hence misplaces the role of family law. It concludes that supportive and flexible legislative frameworks are needed which recognise the varying ways in which people take moral economic decisions.
Part I published in Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, Volume 22, Number 1, 1 February 2000 , pp. 23-42
Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, Volume 22, Number 2, 1 May 2000 , pp. 129-143