The Family, the genome of society

The Family, the genome of society

Pierpaolo Donati, La famiglia, il genoma che fa vivere la società, (The genome which helps society live) Rubbettino, 2013 (12 euros)

The controversies which have arisen in the last decades regarding the statute and the characteristics of the family have made it necessary to reflect deeply on its structure and its features.

The fact that today there are claims which define the term “family” with various forms of “living together”, forms which are very different from one another have brought philosophers, sociologists and psychologists to conduct extensive research on the reality of the family and on the society from which it stems and moves.

It would seem as if there was a pressing need to “purify” common sense based views, and from concepts like “marriage” and “family” in order to re-define profiles based on human nature itself.

In Pierpaolo Donati’s book entitled La famiglia. Il genoma che fa vivere la società (The family, the genome which helps society live), the author examines in a systematic and coherent way the sociological reasons which identify the structure sui generis of the family, with respect to which the humanising character of society is by and large measured.

After laying the ground for his metaphor of the family as a “genome” from which the whole “social organism” depends on, the book continues by explaining how the family is socially possible. He illustrates the deriving causes, the purposes and reasons for which a society “without a family” cannot subsist or where not “everything can be considered family”.

In his book, Donati theorizes on the indispensability of this unique and singular community of life by showing that there is a growing need for it in an age in which the family institution finds itself in crisis and is marginalised by a mainstream dominant culture. This both highlights and is the proof which link to the problems relating to the incapacity of “being/starting” a family. The author continues by stating that the family is a primary point of reference and is more important than the individual who in absence of (a family) loses himself.

The book is stimulating for anyone who is looking for sociological reasons in defence of the family. It is useful in particular for communicators who deal with such social issues as the author gives various points for reflection which are so actual and much discussed in the media: the changes in family politics, the paternity crisis, starting a family, the levelling of the differences between man and woman, the participation of the family as a common good for society, the demands of everyday life, problems with raising children and affective expectations of young people.

It is also interesting, the way in which he explains marital relationships from which families ( or should) originate and build society. Donati gives a long reflection on the importance of “giving oneself” for the edification of authentic relationships as opposed to the mere “satisfaction/affirmation” of oneself. He makes a distinction between a “generation of us” from the “sum of two liberties” united “without ties and implications” which, in turn, produce relationships which are destined to atrophy or persist in their egoism.

In spite of the specificity of the vocabulary and complexity of some concepts, the book re-evaluates the family institution defined in the “strictest sense”, the context in which it is being formed and the specificity and importance that occupies the lives of the individuals in a clear comprehensive way. It is undoubtedly interesting reading and a topic of current debate for scholars who study the family and also for all those who are seeking to understand the developments and cultural changes in our society.

I have read this book through the eyes of a non-academic and as such have written the review with the same language. I have, therefore asked the opinion of an expert in this field, Professor José Adan, University of Valencia, Spain. “In my opinion Donati has successfully achieved in introducing relational sociology in a comprehensive and concise way (Donati is a renowned name in the field of sociology and founder of the relational sociology, NT) and has been applied to a field of much interest. I am aware that this book, being of an academic nature, is not easy to read and there are basic questions of methodology like AGIL scheme which have not been sufficiently explained. In spite of this, much credit should be given to The genome which helps society live and should in my opinion become a compulsory textbook amongst scholars and for those who want to understand the importance of cultural changes which surround us”.