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‘Making trouble’: a Bourdieusian analysis of the UK Government’s Troubled Families Programme

CROSSLEY, STEPHEN,JAMES (2017) ‘Making trouble’: a Bourdieusian analysis of the UK Government’s Troubled Families Programme. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (Final thesis) - Accepted Version


In the wake of riots in towns and cities across England in 2011, the UK coalition government launched the Troubled Families Programme, which aimed to ‘turn around’ the lives of the most troublesome and anti-social families in England by the end of their term of office. In a new iteration of the ‘underclass’ thesis, ‘troubled families’ were held responsible for a wide range of societal ills, with intensive work with families identified as the solution to the problems they allegedly caused. This thesis examines the construction of ‘troubled families’ as an official social problem, drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu and scholars who have extended and developed his work. Despite being arguably the most influential sociologist of the last fifty years, and with a critical interest in issues of power and the reproduction of inequalities, Bourdieu’s extensive body of work has not been well utilised by social work and social policy academics outside of France. This study, then, represents an original contribution to both the development of Bourdieu’s work since his death, and to social policy and social work research in the UK.

The Troubled Families Programme is conceptualised as a policy field and a three-stage approach to operationalizing Bourdieu’s theory of practice is utilised in the study. The history and emergence of the ‘troubled families’ label is examined, using previous academic work, government documents, speeches and media reports. Interviews with thirty-nine workers, managers and directors involved with the delivery and implementation of the Troubled Families Programme have been carried out, providing a ‘street-level’ perspective of the ‘troubled families’ field. Finally, the tools used in carrying out the research and constructing the research object are turned on the research itself, in a process of participant objectivation, highlighting the structural constraints and forces that influence the production of the study and, ultimately, the thesis.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Bourdieu, family intervention, field analysis, troubled families, underclass
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Aug 2017 12:37

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