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THE POLICING OF FAMILIES. By Jacqztes Donzelot. New York: Random. House, , pp., $ (paperback). In this scholarly book, Donzelot. The Policing of Families(first published in French in [English edition, ]) is Jacques Donzelot’s best-known book and a crucial point of reference in. In an analysis that adds to the growing debate on tensions between the modern state and the family, Professor Donzelot (Sociology, Nanterre).

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In The Policing of Families, Jacques Donzelot, a student and colleague of Michel Foucault, offers an account of og intervention in the regulation of family affairs since the eighteenth century, showing how this intervention effected radical changes in the structure of what had traditionally been a private domain. Treating the family as a focal point of multiple social practices and discourses, Donzelot examines the role of philanthropy, social work, compulsory mass education, and psychiatry in the control of family life and describes the transformation of mothers into agents of the state.

Donzelot also provides a critique of Marxist, psychoanalytic, and feminist conceptions of the family and shows how the policies of the state and the professions molded working-class and middle-class families in quite different ways.

It is sure to place the social history of the past two centuries on an entirely new footing. A student and colleague of Michel Foucault shows how public intervention in family affairs since the eighteenth century effected radical changes in a traditionally private domain.

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The Language of Blood. Homonationalism in Queer Times Next Wave: New Directions in Women’s Studies. Review “This is a superb book, an absolutely indispensable book, which cuts through old debates about the family and helps put the whole subject on a new footing.

The Policing Of Families

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Write a customer review. Showing of 2 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Po,icing Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Through the 18th and 19th centuries in France, through various means, but particularly by the juvenile courts and its assemblage of notables, including mothers, which Donzelot calls the tutelage complex, families became a mechanism through which the government extended its control over workers, particularly tye rendering them docile by increasingly severe oversight, successively imposed by mothers, social workers and ultimately penal authorities.

In contrast, for the bourgeois, the family was reoriented away from its former purposes of self-aggrandizement and propertied alliances toward the protection and cultivation of children.

The Policing Of Families by Jacques Donzelot

While working class and bourgeous children alike became subject to school supervision and education, bourgeois families also employed private extracurricular education to assure advancement and address the problem of ‘difficult famileis. Thus, while a state-sponsored institution, the meaning of family manifested very contingently and particularly, depending on the power of its members, particularly, and ultimately, in their relation to the state.

Donzelot especially marvels at the dinzelot psychotherapy donzleot be employed for such varied and contradictory purposes, suggesting that Freud was to psychiatry and medicine what Keynes was to economics, each pplicing necessity appear provisional. Donzelot’s historical review of the French government’s attempt to engineer society via force homogenization of family structures is not only a message of the historical conditions of fammilies early s. It is also an intimidating description of what can happen when social engineering goes bad.


The book describes the mechanization not only of the centralized institutions such as the judicial system, but also of local agencies, such individual philanthropists and community help organizations. Donelot traces the transition of control from the Church where priests constructed the images of the “ideal” family to educational, judicial, medical and psychiatric constructed images of the ideal family.

In all cases, Donzelot is able to illustrate how the structural construction of familial roles fails to inculcate meaning into familial life. Moreover, he is able to illustrate how these maneuvers actually inhibit meaning or destroy already existing emotionally supportive structures. His writing is a critically important look back policnig time that allows a clearer vision of the future of the interrelations of social structures and individual lives.

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