Reinventing Couples: Tradition, Agency and Bricolage

New book by Julia Carter, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at CCCU, and Simon Duncan, Emeritus Professor of Comparative Social Policy at the University of Bradford. 

This book presents a new approach to understanding contemporary personal life, taking account of how people build their lives through a bricolage of ‘tradition’ and ‘modern’. The authors examine how tradition is used and adapted, invented and re-invented; how meaning can leak from past to present; the ways in which people’s agencies differ as they make decisions; and the process of bricolage in making new arrangements. These themes are illustrated through a variety of case studies, ranging from personal life in the 1950s, young women and marriage, the rise of cohabitation, female name change, living apart together, and creating weddings. Centrally the authors emphasise the re-traditionalisation involved in de-traditionalisation and the connectedness involved in individualised processes of relationship change.

Reinventing Couples will be of interest to students and scholars across a range of disciplines including sociology, social work and social policy. It is published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Reviews

“Julia Carter and Simon Duncan’s book provides the most extensive and nuanced analysis of the social dynamics that shape couple life today. Combining original research with broader research findings, the book draws a line under theoretical debates about whether couple relationships are traditional or post-traditional by illuminating the ways in which they are invariably both. It brings to life the dynamic nature of couples as they are lived ‘on the ground’, and through historical and contemporary cases focussed on marriage, cohabitation, naming practices, living together apart and weddings offers a cutting-edge analysis of the factors to be taken into account in understanding couples today. It provides a vital contribution to our understandings of the enduring and changing significance of couple conventions, and through the concept of bricolage offers a way forward for conceptualising the social shaping of couple practices. It is essential reading for scholars and students of family, relationships and personal life.” (Brian Heaphy, University of Manchester, UK)

“In this accessible and engaging book Julia Carter and Simon Duncan challenge the claims made by individualisation theorists that personal and family lives have become increasingly disembedded from traditional practices and beliefs. The authors draw on their extensive research to demonstrate the ways in which individuals blend ‘tradition’ and ‘modern’ when building their personal lives through the process of bricolage. The meticulous yet engaging sociological analysis examines the substantial changes that have taken place since the 1950s, in terms of increasing equality, the rise of cohabitation and living apart together relationships, and finds that they are not unambiguous signs of de-traditionalisation. This is a fascinating book that provides an important contribution to contemporary debates and provides a new framework for linking structure and agency through everyday life.” (Jenny van Hooff, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)

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