Scholarship And Practice
Family and consumer sciences represents a broader vision, revised conceptual framework, and reconceptualized core body of knowledge for the field. Increases in family and societal problems; ecological concerns and resource limitations; negative, unintended consequences of capitalism; the increasingly global economy; and increases in ethnic and racial diversity called into question the belief that science and its resulting technological developments would solve all our problems. Continuous progress could no longer be considered inevitable. Clearly the step-by-step procedures and sequential problem-solving processes used by laboratory science would not provide predictable results in solving human problems. Even problems themselves were re-conceptualized as opportunities for learning rather than something to be avoided (Richards 2000). These intellectual changes in the field's root disciplines (chemistry, biology, physics, math, philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, and the arts and humanities) as well as in home economics itself, reinforced a shift away from technical information and procedures toward critical and creative thinking and ethical reasoning.
Traditionally, professionals in the field have studied the everyday lives of individuals in the family as the fundamental social unit, as well as the family's interactions with the larger environments. Over time, the field's increasingly strong specializations became disciplines in their own right, even though they remain vital to the interdisciplinary field as a whole. No other profession or discipline has such a holistic approach to studying and optimizing family life with emphasis on problem prevention.
In the United States and Australia, some professionals embraced Marjorie Brown and Beatrice Paolucci's 1979 definition of the field as a critical science. They question the continuing dominance of scientific reasoning; encourage examination of the field's purposes, assumptions and questions; and urge it to renew its focus on enabling families themselves to foster the development of healthy, responsible, capable and compassionate individuals. Brown and Paolucci also argued that individuals and families should reflectively participate in the critique and formulation of social goals and means of accomplishing them. Using Jürgen Habermas's philosophy as a basis for their new conceptualization, they argued that synthesis of analyticalempirical, interpretive, and emancipatory knowledge (resulting from use of critical theory) was necessary to address practical problems of families politically, ethically, socially, physically, economically, and psychologically. This requires increased critical thinking and moral reasoning; theoretical and interdisciplinary work; evaluation of existing social practices, norms, and assumptions; and emancipation from ignorance and distorted views resulting from such things as prejudice, trauma, repression, oppression, and useless conventions. Critical science emphasizes political-moral action.