Professor Katherine Rumswick-Cole:

Family trouble: Constructions of ‘the family’ in times of neoliberal-ableism

Under neoliberal-ableism, the rationality of the market is paramount; the ideal citizen is an adaptable citizen, indeed, he is an able individual (note the deliberate gendered/ ableist positioning of the subject here) who is caught up in and complicit with the demands of late capitalism. In the United Kingdom (UK), and elsewhere, discussions of the family conform to the neoliberal-ableist trope as the ‘hard working family’ has emerged as the idealized image of ‘the family’.   In a time of austerity, the ‘hard working family’ is independent, self- sufficient and, crucially, it does not rely on the state for its survival. In UK policy discourse, ‘hard working families’ are contrasted both directly and indirectly with those families who have been constructed as their polar opposites: ‘troubled families’.  Trouble families are feckless, dependent and feral – a burden on the state and on hard working families. Drawing on a recently completed research project, Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society (Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK – ES/K004883/1), I will explore how a critical disability studies analysis can offer a powerful lens through which to contest and refuse contemporary ableist constructions of ‘the family’ and offer, instead, a radical potential to re-imagine ‘the family’ in more diverse and inclusive ways.