New Labour’s Politics of the Hard-working Family

  • Oscar Reyes


This chapter uses the case of New Labour’s family politics to investigate the general claim that the party rejects a social democratic politics ‘grounded in collective agency, attachments, and interests’ (Krieger, 1999, p. 19).1 It argues that New Labour has not abandoned the attempt to construct political subjects, as its politics both presupposes the existence of bonds of community and seeks to strengthen them. This is, in fact, the core of Blair’s ‘social-ism’: an ethical judgement that individuals are socially interdependent human beings who owe a duty to one another and to a broader society (Blair, 1994, p. 4). But does the displacement from class to the notoriously slippery concept of community leave the meaning of this collectivity radically unspecified, and therefore incapable of constituting lasting attachments (Krieger, 1999, p. 160)? I argue that it does not, because the particular case of the ‘hard-working family’ is promulgated as typical of the universal notion of community, providing it with a concrete representation. My main thesis, then, is that the ‘hardworking family’ has emerged as the principle subject posited by New Labour politics. This marks the abandonment of the working man (and his dependants) as Labourism’s historical subject. As Mandelson and Liddle put it, ‘Whereas the old left saw its job as to represent trade unions, pressure groups and the “working class” … New Labour stands for the ordinary families who work hard and play by the rules’ (1996, p. 18).


Unpaid Work Labour Party Discourse Theory Social Democratic Party Daily Mail 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oscar Reyes
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EssexUK

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