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Consider the ways in which your theoretical understanding has directly or indirectly influenced your practical work.

The downfall of the family and the rise of the trapped individual in consumer society as seen in All Roads Lead to Nowhere, No Road Lead to Anywhere

MC53034A Spring 2012 33160401 Media and Communications BA3 Word Count: 2486

In writing this piece I had some very clear themes in mind; I wanted to write a story about family and the difference in family as influenced by socio-economic background. I wanted to set the story in today's consumer capitalist society in times of economic unrest. Recognising my home country of Italy as one where consumerism plays a particularly big role in culture, despite the weak state of the

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economy, I decided setting the story in the capital of Rome would be ideal. The first version of this piece told the story of the friendship formed formed between two prison cell mates from opposite social backgrounds, both having ended up in jail both in the attempt to support their family financially. After writing the story I grew a greater interest in how the lives of their family members, who came to visit them in prison, were being affected by their absence. Having never written from a female prospective I decided to focus the story around the experience's of Lamberto and Aldo's female family members with Laura (Aldo's love interest and Lamberto's daughter) as main character, Rosa (Aldo's mother) as the second main character and Maria (Lamberto's wife) as a secondary character. This essay considers some of the ways in which my understandings of those social theoriwa concerned with the changing trends of the family and the individual under in a society undergoing changes caused by processes of individualisation have directly and indirectly contributed to the shaping of my prose. In an exploration of the text through these theories I hope to demonstrate how the setting of the prison, in relation specifically to Foucault's understanding of governmentality, turns out to function on a metaphorical level, mirroring the mirroring the socially inflicted constraints suffered on a more subconscious level by the family members living freely out in society. Aldo dictates the essence of the story himself with his line we're never free Gigi; nor out there, nor in here.... The traditional family model which formed through out history is described by Engels as patriarchal, with the husband, father and patriarch emerging in the position of power, with his wife and children as dependant slaves1. The family was placed at the centre of the state functioning under this patriarchal system, with all economic and social policies adapted to this traditional family model. In the 60s a rejection of this model as well as other forms of traditionalism was fuelled primarily by progressive movements of feminists and homosexuals, who accused it of functioning as a social prison2. Social theorists recognised its leading role in society as primarily promoting selfishness and exclusion3 . With the growing acceptance of homosexuality and women's equality in the work force, the nuclear family model was no longer appealing to a large proportion of the population. The Becks described this shift as the family going from the role of community of need to that of an elective relationship4. Aldo and Lamberto's families reflect the breakdown of the traditional family model, seen as central to the eradication of the patriarchal system5, in different ways. Being Rosa a single mother, Aldo's family represents one of many models of alternative household or post-familial family6 . Lamberto's family, on the other hand resembles a more traditional model, but their identities and relationships with one another display recognisable traits of those living under the condition of late modernity, as I will elaborate. Women as empowered individuals living in a post-patriarchal society no longer seek economic dependance on a man, often even when sharing children. Rosa's case is quite an extreme one, having left single mother after not one, but two marriages; her independence could be seen as having played a big role in the presumed lack of hesitation which her husbands found in abandoning her and the children. Single mothers in today's society, as remarked by Angela McRobbie, are no longer referred to as unmarried or divorced, but as single and a mother, indicative of competence, confidence and a de-stigmatized identity;the title no longer suggesting a sense of failure, abandonment or dependency7. Despite having been abandoned twice, Rosa only makes one victimising reference to her struggle in having to grow up her children without a husabnd by her side. Rosa could almost be seen as the ultimate single mother, earning herself an honest living and seeming quite capable of fulfilling a double parental role for all her children. However, a more critical feminist reading of her character would denounce her from representing an ideal model of single mother, due to her lack of success in keeping Aldo in education and out of jail. In his studies of trends in Italian society since the second world war, Mignone observes that the woman has always been more empowered in Italian society in respect to others. He recalls the popular phrase Il padrone sono io, ma a casa commanda mia moglie (I am the boss, but my wife commands at
1 2 3 4 5 6 Engels (1942) Beck-Gernsheim (1998) Barret and Macintosh ( 1991: 221) Beck-Gernsheim (1998) Castells (1997) Beck-Gernsheim (1998)

7 McRobbie (1999)

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home)8. Like Rosa, although in a different vain, Maria's authority in Lamberto's household is also felt, primarily through the patronising tone she adopts with both Laura and Lamberto. Although many Italians would like to see the popularity of the model of the pro-longed family9 as a demonstration of the deeply embedded family tradition felt in their society, the realistic basis for families being held together together for such an extensive period of time comes down to high rate of unemployment, which forces young adults such as Aldo and Gigi to extend their residence in their family homes throughout their adulthood. Although class is more and more frequently dismissed as irrelevant to the formation of identities under late capitalism, I assume a critical stance towards this claim, echoing Beck's notion that market insecurities strengthen the embedding of class into society10. Aldo himself recognises the deeply embedment of class even in contemporary society, by which he justifies the inevitable differences between Aldo and Laura's outlook. He communicates to her in the opening letter where he writes I was born into this life and you into yours, and that because of this he doesn't expect her to be incapable of empathising with his actions. On a further relevant note, Castells points out that the loss of importance of the family, as well as investing a new independence in the individual, also pushes one to confront the self with it's own inflicted oppression; therefore this new found freedom, he warns, is also a great cause of social anxiety and violence11.. Aldo's criminal behaviour is possibly a demonstration of the anxiety which he feels due to the uncertain position which he occupies in both his family as well as within society as both , being out uneducated as well as unemployed. His having dropped out of school early recalls what Paul Willis termed the Anti-school mentality, adopted by working class lads who recognise that capitalism does not offer them equal opportunities, and that thus regardless of their academic efforts their chances of success remain far below those of middle class pupils12. Aldo is a classic example of what has come to be known as a product of post-industrial masculinity13, a working class male who due to lack of the availability of manual labour in the new cultural work force is deprived of opportunities and forced to resort to alternative emasculating behaviour; in his case, dealing drugs. The roles of class and family which have become dismissed as a consequences of the social and economic changes taking place under later modernity, are replaced by consumerism, social policy and work in the shaping of identities as recognised by contemporary social theorists Giddens, Bauman and Beck write of these changes under the title of individualisation. This is explained as a process which pushes individuals to become personally responsible for the construction of their own biographies14. Bauman sees us as being largely pressured into this governing of the self, making our way of living free but stressful15. As a family Laura, Lamberto and Rosa are very resonant of what Castells descried as a growing separation taking placed between different family members no longer being held together, as they were traditionally, under the same institution16. Bauman sees the emergence of a general decline of commitment as a central trait of the non-traditional society17. There is a lacking of family spirit to be found in Lamberto's family, as pointed out by Aldo and later, after she spends some time with Aldo's family, confirmed by Laura. A scene which specifically brings our attention to this is when Maria discourages the concern which Laura shows towards her father, saying she ought to leave him alone after a long day of work. Furthermore the family members lack ay sort of commitment or expectation from the other; when Maria breaks off any connection with Lamberto immediately after his arrest this comes to him as no surprise. The family dissolves in an almost unsettlingly natural manner by the end of the story. The one who can be seen as having invested most of his efforts into the family is Lamberto, prior to his arrest. His actions are display a sense of what Banfield saw as an amoral familism typical of Italian agricultural families, where heads of the family where strictly concerned with the maximisation of their own economic situation,
8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Mignone (2008) Mignone (2008) Beck-Gernsheim(1998) Castells (1997: 301) Willis (1981) Campbell (1993) Beck-Gernsheim(1998) Bauman Freedom (1988) Castells (1997) Castells (1997)

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displaying a lack of civil consciousness18. In this case, the lack of civil consciousness lead to Lamberto's downfall. Laura and Maria's easy adaptation to the situation fulfil the flexibility, or ability to constantly redefine their roles, seen as a prime requirement for success in the age of invidualisation19. The different levels of independence found between Aldo's and Lamberto's families can once again be justified by their socio-economic roots. Due to their lack of economic stability Aldo's family have grown up constantly relying on each other, whilst Lamberto's family has learned to live with an economic security allowing for support of any decision made on an individual basis. As an individual Laura initially strives to break free of any form of class convention by adopting a marginally alternative lifestyle, hanging out with the lower class boys in the suburbs. Even thereafter she feels that she is picking her education out of her own choice; her actions emphasise the typical need of the individualised self to construct a coherent narrative20. The fact that ultimately Laura opts for continuing with her studies rather than giving Aldo a second chance shows that she feels the right choice entails carrying through the targets which she has set herself 21. Laura tries to form her own identity rejecting traits of her parents; Derrida understood the typical identity formation process to function in this exclusive manner22. She rejects both her father's her father hereditary positon as well as her her mother's superficiality, and tries to form an identity on these bases. Laura can be categorised as what post-femminist theorist Anita Harris calls the can-do girl; a young woman who in the age of individualisation see's herself as pursuing her responsibilities rather than rights, whilst managed through forms of participation and consumption. Laura see's her studies as her own decision, blind to the fact that she has been coerced into this decision by other aspects of her life, such as her privileged position. She claims to want to study law to help out those who are in need of help, but is entitled to this position in the first place because of her position; even after Lamberto looses all his money Laura does not cease to belong to the privileged sector of society. Laura's desires have been guided by what Foucault describes as forms of governmentality; the art by which the population is influenced to govern themselves, coerced through different institutions23. Seeing government, the way Foucault did, as the conduct of conduct; the essence of the concept of governmentality lays in understanding the fact that to govern humans is not to crush their capacity to act but to acknowledge it and utilise it for one's own purpose24. In the case of Laura, education as well as other institutions have persuaded her to acknowledge her intellectual capacity and potential in pursuing a career as a lawyer. The following of an education, which she lives as a liberating act, Foucault would see as comparable to the prison, as they are both social institutions hosts of techniques of power25 . Consumption is another form of governmentality recognised by Nikolas Ros; functioning as an exclusive regime, leaving those like Aldo and Lamberto who are no longer capable of consuming under other forms of surveillance26. Consumerism is seen as a great enabler for the formation of identities27, regardless of background. Both Maria and Gigi give display of consumerist tendencies, Gigi showing off his new watch to Aldo and Maria trying to push a pair of new shoes onto Laura. Mignone observes a new understanding of culture in Italy as being moulded by as being moulded by consumption and commodity aesthetics reflected in consumer models, lifestyle and leisure activities28. Giddens sees the popularisation of consumerism as simultaneously a cause and a therapeutic remedy in the crisis of the post-traditional society29. From this point of view Lamberto can be seen as having ended up in ultimately for the mere cause of supporting his family's consumerism. What ties Laura and Aldo together and apart from the other characters is their rejection of this consumerism; however they too, as have been observed, are not really entitled to consider themselves as free individuals.
18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 Bafield (1958) Hage and Powers (1992) Giddens (1991) McRobbie (2004) Derrida quoted in stuart Hall (1991) Foucault (2000) Rose (1999) Foucault (1991) Rose (1999) Beck (1992) Mignone (2008) Giddens (1991)

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I hope to have provided a sufficiently critical and insightful exploration of my text, by employing social theory primarily concerned with the breakdown of the traditional family system and its effects on the individual family members has influenced the plot of my story. Furthermore I hope to have compared and contrasted Aldo and Lamberto's family in a manner which demonstrates the defining influence of socio-economic position still felt in today's society. By drawing on expansion of Focualt's concept of governmentality, I hope to have provided a credible explanation to the function of the prison on a metaphorical level, presenting education and consumption as equal forms of surveillance within contemporary society. Furthermore by presenting some of the characters as some of the models of identity elaborated on in contemporary sociological writings (the can-do girl, the single mother, the consumerist, the post-industrial masculinity I hope have demonstrated how my story can function as a commentary of the individualised society.

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