Family as a socio-economic actor in the political economy of welfare

Theodoros Papadopoulos, Antonios Roumpakis

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section

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After years of neoliberal restructuring of social welfare families are under pressure to act more strategically in absorbing ever-increasing social risks and costs associated with social reproduction. Against this background, our paper explores family’s agency beyond the realm of care provision. We our theoretical understanding of the family as a socio-economic actor by drawing upon Karl Polanyi’s work on the variety of moral rationalities of different types of economic action (reciprocity, redistribution, autarchy and market exchange) and upon work from the critical realist sociological literature on family as a relational subject. Our chapter puts forward an expanded conceptualization of the family as a collective socio-economic actor that deploys a portfolio of moral ‘rationales’ and practices to enhance its members’ welfare and provide them with social protection against both state and market failures. We highlight the need for a new direction for social policy research on the family that treats the terrain of family’s collective agency as a separate level of analysis, where intersections of class, racial, gender and generational inequalities can be re-imagined in studying how different welfare regimes institutionalize the conditions for families to act as socio-economic agents.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Policy Review
Subtitle of host publicationAnalysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2019
EditorsElke Heins, Catherine Needham, James Rees
Place of PublicationBristol, U. K.
PublisherPolicy Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781447344001
ISBN (Print)9781447343981
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2019
EventInternational Conference on Global Dynamics of Social Policy - University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
Duration: 25 Oct 201826 Oct 2018


ConferenceInternational Conference on Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Internet address


  • Family
  • Political Economy
  • Welfare and family structure
  • Karl Polanyi
  • Relational sociology
  • household economics
  • households
  • Reciprocity
  • Redistribution
  • Householding
  • family policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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