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End of Marriage : Individualism and Intimate Relations

By Jane Lewis

Review

The author, Jane Lewis, is Barnett Professor of Social Policy at University of Oxford, UK

Just as the order in which sex, marriage, cohabitation and childbirth occur can no longer be assumed, nor can the pattern of contributions that men and women make to the household. The End of Marriage? explores both the way in which the old rules have been eroded and what happens as a result. While there may certainly be something of a vacuum, Jane Lewis suggests that in some quarters at least this is being filled by increased negotiation at the household level. This questions the idea that individualism is necessarily selfish and destructive, which in turn raises issues regarding the regulation of the family, an increasingly delicate task for policymakers.

The book reviews the debate surrounding the causes of family change, and suggests that the ‘cultural variable’ has been neglected, and that it is important to look at changes in normative expectations as well as in behavior. Historical analysis is used to track changes in the major prescriptive frameworks of family law and the male breadwinner model. Contemporary qualitative research is also drawn upon in order to explore relationships in married and cohabiting households.

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