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Governing families that care for a sick relative: the contributions of Donzelot’s theory for nursing

According to the literature, the family is now considered to be the most important resource for the care and support of a sick family member. Families are being increasingly invited and trained to play a utilitarian role, not just as family caregivers, but as healthcare agents. Healthcare institutions, based on neoliberal health policies, are encouraging them to perform increasingly complex and professionalized tasks. The burden associated with this expanded healthcare function, however, is significant (fatigue, emotional distress and exhaustion). The aim of this article was to present French sociologist Jacques Donzelot's theoretical perspective on governing through the family. According to Donzelot, such a government is exercised through various power techniques, including the instrumentalization of the family role and the transfer to families of the responsibility for health care. This author describes how healthcare institutions call on the family to perform hospital and biomedical practices within the home. A spin‐off of neoliberalism, the practices of governing through families specifically target women, who are considered to be the pillar of the family. Donzelot's perspective is very relevant to nursing, but is still rarely mobilized in the discipline. His critical perspective allows for a re‐reading of relations of power and mechanisms of surveillance and control of families, issues that are often overlooked in nursing research.

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Nursing Philosophy
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