1st Edition

Governing Families Problematising Technologies in Social Welfare and Criminal Justice

By Rosalind Edwards, Pamela Ugwudike Copyright 2023

    This book provides a focused discussion of how families are governed through technologies. It shows how states attempt to influence, shape and govern families as both the source of and solution to a range of social problems including crime.

    The book critically reviews family governance in contemporary neo-liberal society, notably through technologies of self-responsibilisation, biologisation, and artificial intelligence. The book draws attention to the poor working class and racialised families that often are marked out and evaluated as culpable, dysfunctional, and a threat to economic and social order, obscuring the structural inequalities that underpin family lives and discriminations that are built into the tools that identify and govern families.

    Filling a gap where disciplinary perspectives cross-cut, this book brings together sociological and criminological perspectives to provide a unique cross-disciplinary approach to the topic. It will be of interest to researchers, scholars and lecturers studying sociology and criminology, as well as policy-makers and professionals working in the fields of early years and family intervention programmes, including in social work, health, education, and the criminologically-relevant professions such as police and probation.

    1. Governing Families Through Technologies: An Introduction

    2. Self-governance and Intergenerationality: Stigma and Labelling 

    3. Biologisation, Brain Science and Adverse Childhood Experiences

    4. Assessing and Managing Families: Risk

    5. Governance by Artificial Intelligence (AI): Predictive Risk Modelling

    6. Governing Families Through Technologies: A Conclusion


    Rosalind Edwards (she/her) is Professor of Sociology at the University of Southampton, UK. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and a co-editor of the International Journal of Social Research Methodology. She has published widely on families and research methods.

    Pamela Ugwudike is Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Southampton and a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI). She is a Fellow of the UK’s Higher Education Academy and co-Editor-in-Chief of Criminology and Criminal Justice Journal.

    "This engaging study shows the usefulness of widening the conception of "governing" to include a broad range of mechanisms, agencies and knowledges. In rich case studies, Edwards and Ugwudike trace how macro and micro technologies categorize, normalize and stigmatize groups of people, often mothers and working-class and ethnic minority families, as problematic. They effectively demonstrate the need to consider the convergence of social welfare and criminal justice policies as governing practices, highlighting the expanding role of AI and data-driven technologies."

    Professor Emerita Carol Bacchi, Department of Politics and International Relations, The University of Adelaide, Australia

    "Edwards and Ugwudike pull together the threads of neoliberal politics, the governance of families, biology and ‘brain science’, and the rise of new technologies of prediction and categorisation, explaining how they are woven together in an innovative and insightful manner. Full of pithy insights, their careful analysis of the marrying of morality and technologies, particularly in the areas of criminal justice and child protection is innovative and wide-ranging. The tendency of governments to lay the blame for complex social problems at the feet of individuals and families, and the increasing use of predictive technologies to surveil and sanction families in the interests of ‘entrepreneurial resilience’, is thoroughly interrogated in this fascinating and frightening analysis."

    Dr Emily Keddell, Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo, University of Otago, New Zealand

    "Combining criminological and sociological perspectives, and fusing Bourdiuesian and Foucauldian scholarship, Edwards and Ugwudike provide a compelling critical interrogation of changes and continuities in modes of family governance over the long durée. They highlight the convergence of the welfare state and criminal justice system in the contemporary period. This book will certainly be of use in teaching and research."

    Dr Stephen Crossley, Durham University, UK