Family-talk: the construction of work-family discourse in the Howard government, 2004-2007

2017-02-22T04:16:24Z (GMT) by McNicoll, Yolande
This thesis explores the construction of the work-family dyad in public texts surrounding the Howard Government, 2004-2007. Specifically, it draws on a discursive framework to introduce the concept of ‘family-talk’ as a means to interrogate the ideological repertoires used to promote a range of policy initiatives. While the discourse of John Howard and his government has received scholarly attention, the prominent relationship between family and work in the language of this government is ripe for further investigation. By employing a governmental analysis informed by the work of Foucault and Laclau and Mouffe, this thesis makes a series of connections between the various socio-cultural repertoires that uphold and legitimise particular ideals surrounding how work and family ‘should’ be orientated to each other. The thesis next reviews current debates surrounding the relationship between work and family as understood in work-family studies, in sociologically-orientated studies of work and family, and in academic critiques of Australasian public policy. It is established that scope exists for discursive enquiry into the language with which government promotes both work and family policies, and that exploring the two iteratively may help to elucidate apparent paradoxes and contradictions. To develop a theoretical framework, the thesis draws on a governmental approach to develop a new concept of family-talk that allows a more contextually specific idea of family and work as operating within wider discursive and ideological realms. From this follows a methodology chapter outlining how the methodological corollary of the theoretical framework, Critical Discourse Analysis, was adopted for this thesis. Critical Discourse Analysis justifies the use of political speeches and media releases for analysis, and the four-step process of data analysis that was followed. Three chapters of results are presented to develop particular tenets of the family-talk concept. The first empirical chapter examines the construction of the Howard Government family and how this standpoint is supported and legitimised. The second empirical chapter explores the relationship created by the Government between the concepts of work and family, how this dyad is created and the worldview that is thus promoted. The final chapter of results shows how the work-family dyad simultaneously relies upon and forms part of larger discourses, particularly surrounding citizenship and national identity, and the chains of logic that legitimise and facilitate these relationships. The discussion then returns to the main research questions, using the findings to explore the ways through which the concept of family-talk reveals how the Howard Government developed a discourse based upon the concept of the family and work to advance particular standpoints about the proper conduct of individuals and families, particularly, the right relationship between family and work, and the implications of these ideological positions. While recognising the empirical context of this research, the final chapter also discusses the conceptual purchase afforded by the concept of family-talk and how it may be useful for studying work and family in other domains, such as organisational policies.