chapter  4
25 Pages

Kinship Ideology

Is there an ideology of kinship among the English middle class? In its general meaning ideology is a set of ideas concerning phenomena of social life. Such ideas are expected to be formulated in words, and expressed in relatively consistent verbal and non-verbal behaviour. In this sense, we are looking to see how far ideas about kinship are expressed in speech and action as a coherent whole, and are so interrelated that one kind of idea depends in some logical way upon the others. This is so in most societies of a preindustrial kind, where kinship is commonly one of the major organizing principles of the social order.1 The ideas of North London middle-class people about their kin, we can predict, will be found almost certainly not to be of such clear-cut, systematic kind. But granted this, what are the ideas which people do have about the nature of kinship, the patterns of behaviour characterizing it, and the responsibilities attaching to it? How far are they expressed as articulate generalizations? How far do people integrate these ideas and conceive of a kinship system? How far do they think there are any rules of kinship as such? How far do they link ideas with action, and what kinds of sanctions do they think operate to produce the right kind of action?