CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

Rooted in sociology, this text aims to clarify the use of the concept of “family arrangements” in the French-speaking and English-speaking social sciences. It clarifies its relevance to the competing term “negotiation” to describe collective decision-making by family members. Family arrangements designate the oftentimes laborious and/or conflictual consensus-building process among relatives who may have contradictory interests, as well as the outcome of this process. The concept tackles situations with tensions that are not resolved by a unilateral imposition of one point of view (the law of the strongest) nor by a harmonious accord arising from family relations where everyone seems to agree (one common point of view). Arrangements require multiple people (they cannot be made by one person) and several points of view that need to be reconciled. From a temporal perspective, arrangements are never completely finished: making arrangements is a perpetual process that outlasts their legal and moral formalization, whose results are only temporary. This concept goes beyond the legal opposition between agreement and contention, by providing a more nuanced description of the social production of consensus, including when the latter is fragile and temporary.

  • sociology of the family
  • negotiation
  • consensus
  • conflict
  • collective decision-making
Céline Bessière
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