By Sally Sales (auth.)
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Extra resources for Adoption, Family and the Paradox of Origins: A Foucauldian History
The emergence of adoption as a solution to illegitimacy has to be understood as an effect of a number of transformations that took place in the nineteenth century. Drawing on Foucault’s analysis in History of Sexuality, Volume I (1978), this chapter will explore those changes that were central to the eventual inauguration of adoption in 1926. The construction of illegitimacy as a social problem emerged gradually through the nineteenth century, gathering momentum within a complex matrix of other cultural transformations.
Parents begun to be understood as active agents in the production of their children’s natures and for this reason parenting – or rather mothering – assumed more and more importance. This new emphasis on parental responsibility made it possible to believe that the parent’s virtues and vices would be transmitted to the child, for better or for worse. This marked a very important change for child welfare practices. Once it was established that parenting was responsible for the way that children were formed, it then becomes possible to construct the category of ‘bad/failing’ parent, who should not be allowed parenting responsibilities and from whom children should be protected.
I want to briefly outline the trajectories of these different forms of intervention, as together they made possible the eventual emergence of adoption. The psychologising and problematising of family relations began with the middle classes and it was not until the post-war period that the working- class family ‘acquired’ a psychological life (see Chapter 4). This transformation to middle- class family relations was achieved through what Foucault has termed ‘pastoral power’. This is a form of power that takes charge of the individual subject from the inside, regulating the production of a conscience, governing through the normalising techniques of welfare concerns and educational programmes.