September 23rd, 2006

ozarque figure

The IO Family/NC Family model; about negotiation...

Thank you for all your comments on the IOF/NCF [Inherited Obligations Family/Negotiated Commitments Family] model proposed by Ault and Muder. Including this one...

From dpolicar:
"... once genuine negotiation is possible, all obligations are potentially in play -- I don't get to simply insist that you're going to do [insert-task-here] because I'm your [insert-role-here] and that's that. ... So... hm. Perhaps 'negotiated'/'inherited' is another one of those false-dichotomy terminology pairs, like 'life'/'choice'. "

It seems to me that the proposed dichotomy is not just "inherited/negotiated," but that Muder intends us to keep those two-word phrases together. I believe his intention is to contrast "commitments" -- which are created by those involved, and may be mutually created [thus, "negotiated commitments"] -- with "obligations," which are just part of the legacy we're born with [thus, "inherited obligations"].

At the most extreme IOF end of the continuum, no negotiation of any kind would be allowed; at the most extreme NCF end of the continuum, every last detail would have to be negotiated. Theoretically both of those versions are possible; in the real world I suspect (and hope) that they're nothing but abstractions. Once you get past those abstract extremes, there's going to be a lot of variation.

There are going to be inherited obligations that cannot be negotiated away; they can be rejected, but that's not going to cancel the obligation, and the refusal is never going to become acceptable to the other members of the family. For example, in the IO family it's never going to be acceptable for any relative to go hungry unless it is literally true that no other family member has any way to offer help. That doesn't mean that Cousin Lee, who's reasonably well off and is competent in every way, might not refuse to do anything of the kind. It does mean that if Cousin Lee follows that path, Cousin Lee will go down in the history of the family as someone whose behavior is totally unacceptable, forever and ever; Cousin Lee will be held up to the children of each generation as the Bad Example. I think the same thing would be true for the NC family, except that the definition of "family member" wouldn't be restricted to relatives. However, I think there's an additional difference.

In the IO family, the fact that Cousin Lee refused to help a destitute relative would not mean that family members would refuse to help Cousin Lee in a similar situation. No one would say "You wouldn't help when Tracy was homeless and broke; therefore, we won't help you now that you're homeless and broke." [That, I believe, goes with Lakoff's "Strict Father" family model.] In the IO family the obligation remains unchanged and unquestioned and has nothing at all to do with whether the individual "deserves" to have it honored.

My guess -- only a guess, now -- is that in the NC family, Cousin Lee might not have that advantage. Perhaps those of you who are in families that are primarily NC could let me know if that's correct or not.

I will never forget how startled I was when I discovered that in one of my chadult-in-law's families the rule was that if you loaned money to a relative you charged that relative interest on the loan. It makes perfectly good sense intellectually, but emotionally? I was shocked.

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