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Autonomy in the family - tensions between law and social norms

Conference contribution
Authors Eva-Maria Svensson
Published in The Normative Anatomy of Society: Relations Between Norms and Law in the 21st Century, Lund 24-25 april 2012
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Law
Language en
Keywords autonomy, dependency, relationality, the ideology of nuclear-family
Subject categories Law


Introduction The field of study is being ‘regulated’ by both private and legal norms. The tension between private and legal norms is at the stake. Policy is understood as a producer of the ideological base for private and legal norms in the field. Swedish family law is based on an explicit ideology of the autonomous individual, with some exceptions. Private norms as well as family policy are supposed to be less based on the same ideology. In policy rhetoric, the nuclear-family is talked about as something natural. Story-telling about the family has changed from a heterosexual to a neutral-sexual setting, but has preserved the norm of a two-adult sexual relationship. The ‘family’ as a two-adult sexual relationship, with or without children, is challenged in this study. Legal changes are made, in order to fit new ways of living in relationships into the ideology of the nuclear family. But are there alternatives? Can ‘close relationships’ in a legal setting embrace other than the two-adult sexual partners (Pylkkänen 2011)? Method State policy about the family, expressed in official documents under a certain time period, will be analysed and compared to legal and private norms. Legal norms are easy to identify, when it comes to private norms I rely on public opion polls (e.g. SOM-institutet). Results and Conclusions The expected results are that there are tensions between private and legal norms when it comes to expectations of autonomy and dependence in family. There are also expectations on changes in state policy and that those changes have implications for changes in legal norms. The effect on private norms is difficult to show.

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