Unity and multiformity of the family in the West: senses and paths after modernity
The so-called “pluralization” of family forms is a long term trend which appears to represent the very core of the family issues in Western societies. This essay first discusses its various meanings, claiming that a distinction is both possible and necessary between a “positive” and a “negative” sense of pluralization, in a rigorously non-normative sense that appeals to the difference between intentional transformation and disruption of family loyalties (part 1). Then the author specifies what exogenous forces – mainly State and market – make for the development of the trend towards pluralization (part 2), and draws a summary description of the endogenous dynamic that family life is displaying, in autonomous response to such forces and also as a result of inner socio-cultural elaboration (part 3). The essay concludes with a discussion of the core problem implied by the whole phenomenon, namely the de-symbolization of some basic elements of family relationships, and their ambiguous reconstruction in a sort of “virtual anthropology” (part 4). The author claims that this socio-cultural dynamic is the present result of a long- run and ongoing process of neutralization of the public sphere in Western societies, of which this evolution in family relationships could well represent both the most advanced frontier and the coming crisis.