Marriage and Values in Public Policy : Conflicts in the UK, the US and Australia book cover
1st Edition

Marriage and Values in Public Policy
Conflicts in the UK, the US and Australia

ISBN 9781138368231
Published August 14, 2018 by Routledge
222 Pages

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Book Description

Marriage is a site of political conflict. It is a controversial issue in the UK, Australia and the US where there is a clash of values between neoliberal governments and diverse groups either strongly opposing or supporting marriage. In the meantime, fewer couples are marrying, while other family forms are more widely accepted. This book explores this disconnect by examining policy issues such as class divides, ethnicity, religion, same-sex marriage, gender relations and romantic expectations.

A top down approach explores different government policy responses to marriage. In all three countries, there are differences and similarities in how governments react to the changes in family formations, but values or ‘conceptions of the desirable’ play a significant role. Enhancing stability and commitment as well as personal responsibility are important for policymakers who aim to keep ‘the family’ intact and thereby lower the burden on the public purse. It is difficult for political actors to respond to conflicting and changing values surrounding the diversity in relationships or to translate them into policies. There is a strong case to be made for increased policy attention to adult relationships - and a much weaker case for marriage. Rich evidence is drawn from interviews with key stakeholders as well as politicians’ speeches, government departmental reports, stakeholders’ documents and responses to government policies, and media articles.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Neoliberalism, Values and Marriage Policies

Chapter 1: Transforming the Legal State of Marriage 

Chapter 2: The Clash of Institutional Versus Individual Values 

Chapter 3: Changing Gender Relations and Values in Marriage 

Chapter 4: The Neglect of the Marriage Divide and Disadvantaged Cohorts 

Chapter 5: Government Strategies to Strengthen Marriage

Chapter 6: The Contradictory Politics of Same-Sex Marriage

Conclusions: Can All Couples ‘Live Happily Ever After’ in Neoliberal Societies?

Appendix: Interview Questions


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Elizabeth Van Acker is Senior Lecturer in the School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University, Australia. Her research interests include government policies around marriage and relationships, gender representations and politics and industry policies.


'Van Acker’s new book locates the debates over the past, present and future of marriage in their broader political context and skilfully identifies the competing values underpinning different policies on marriage. It will be a very valuable contribution to the literature and illuminates why formulating policy on marriage is so difficult!' - Rebecca Probert, University of Warwick, UK

'The very word "marriage" has become a loaded political term, not only inflaming debates about same-sex partnerships, but complicating discussion of the relationship between neo-liberalism and inequality, individual responsibility and social fabric, multiculturalism and persistent racism and religious differences.  In this volume, Australian political scientist Liz van Acker explores the question of why marriage has become a political dividing line in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, providing new insight into the source and role of values during a period of economic and cultural change.' - June Carbone, Robina Chair of Law, Science and Technology, University of Minnesota Law School