Creating Hard-working, Responsible Parents: A New Labour Structure of Feeling?

Gambles, Richenda (2011). Creating Hard-working, Responsible Parents: A New Labour Structure of Feeling? PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis uses and extends Raymond Williams' (1961; 1977) structure of feeling approach to locate a mood about parenting during the New Labour years, and to consider what this approach can reveal about the presence, power and position of policy in parents' lives. It adapts the structure of feeling approach in two particular ways: by including interviews alongside policy and popular cultural sources; and by extending the notion of feeling to include personal feelings and their interaction with the wider public mood. These aclaptions were particularly relevant for a subject as personal as parenting, and for a cultural context which placed so much attention on the personal and personal responsibilities for monitoring and supervising the self (Giddens, 1991; Rose, 1999). In locating and analysing the structure of feeling, the thesis draws on the concepts of ideological dilemmas and interpretative repertoires which have been described as a range of competing ideologies that make up beliefs, values, practices and wisdoms of particular cultures, and a range of different rhetorical resources people have available to them to discuss and make sense of the dilemmas (Billig, 2001; Edley, 2001). In identifying three particular dilemmas - about the genclered nature of parenting, expertise about parenting, and work in the context of parenting - the thesis locates dominant and alternative ideas about parenting which point to a structure of feeling that is full of contestation which is managed through discourses of 'choice' and 'what works'. The thesis explores the personal responsibilities placed on parents for managing these dilemmas and the strategies they deploy to do this, and reveals that these strategies can vary according to parents' personal dispositions but also their social positionings. This thesis demonstrates the usefulness and significance of the structure of feeling approach for locating and understanding social inequalities and their (lack of) transformation in a cultural era emphasising the personal and personal responsibility.

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