Marxism and the family

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  • Marxism and the Family
    • This is based on private property driven by profit, and riddled with conflict between social classes and opposing interests.
      • They argue the main function of the nuclear family is to distract the working class from the fact that they are being exploited by capitalism.
        • They see the family within the framework of a capitalist society.
    • They see the family within the framework of a capitalist society.
    • They believe the conflict between classes is done in two ways:
      • The hierarchical way in which nuclear families are traditionally organised.
        • The male as the head of the household discourages workers from questioning their hierarchical nature of capitalism and the inequalities in wealth and power that come from it.
          • For Marxists then the functions of the nuclear family benefit those who run the capitalist system rather than the whole of society as functionalists would suggest.
            • Therefore the organisation of capitalism often goes noticed as generations are always fixated on the latest designer labels and trendy gadgets.
      • Parents are encouraged to teach their children that the main  route to happiness and status lies in consumerism and the acquisition of material possessions.
        • Therefore the organisation of capitalism often goes noticed as generations are always fixated on the latest designer labels and trendy gadgets.
    • Marxists have several functions that they see as the family fulfilling for capitalism:
      • Inheritance of Property
        • Engels (1972)
          • Believed that the means of production were commonly owned and the family as such did not exist.
          • Those who control societies productive forces such as tools, machinery, and raw materials, if the upper class, and its the working class that drive them
          • He argued that throughout history more and more restraints were places on sexual relationships.
            • The Monogamous Nuclear Family developed with the emergence of private property, and in particular the private ownership of means of productions, and the advent of the state.
            • The state instituted laws to protect the system of private property and to enforce the rule of monogamous marriage.
            • Property was passed down through male heirs therefore women needed to be restricted so there was no doubt about the paternity of the off-spring.
            • In Engels view the rise of the Monogamous Nuclear Family represented a "world historical defeat of the female sex" this was because it brought women's sexuality under male control and turned her into "a mere instrument for the production of children".
        • Marxists argue that only the overthrow of capitalism and private ownership of the means of productions will women achieve liberation from patriarchal control.
        • A classless society will be established in which the means of production will be owned collectively. So there will no longer be a need for the patriarchal family since there will be no need to have means of transmitting property down the generations
        • Criticisms:
          • Engels (1972)
            • Believed that the means of production were commonly owned and the family as such did not exist.
            • Those who control societies productive forces such as tools, machinery, and raw materials, if the upper class, and its the working class that drive them
            • He argued that throughout history more and more restraints were places on sexual relationships.
              • The Monogamous Nuclear Family developed with the emergence of private property, and in particular the private ownership of means of productions, and the advent of the state.
              • The state instituted laws to protect the system of private property and to enforce the rule of monogamous marriage.
              • Property was passed down through male heirs therefore women needed to be restricted so there was no doubt about the paternity of the off-spring.
              • In Engels view the rise of the Monogamous Nuclear Family represented a "world historical defeat of the female sex" this was because it brought women's sexuality under male control and turned her into "a mere instrument for the production of children".
          • Modern research indicates that Engels theory was flawed in relation to the types of family that he supported and his lack of evidence for their existence.
      • A Unit of Consumption
        • Capitalism exploits the labour of the workers, maintaining a profit by selling the products of their labour for more than it costs to produce them.
        • They family therefore plays a major role in generating profits, since its an important market for the sale of consumer goods.
        • Advertising urges families to "keep up with the Jones's" by advertising all the latest products.
        • The media targets children who use "pester power" to persuade parents to spend more.
        • Children who lack the latest clothes or "must have" gadgets" are mocked and stigmatised by their peers.
      • Ideological Functions
        • Zaretsky (1976)
          • The private life of the family provided opportunities for satisfactions that were unavailable outside the walls of the home.
          • Argues that the family in modern capitalist society creates the illusion that the private life of the family is kept separate from the economy
          • He sees the family as cushioning the effects of capitalism but it cannot compensate for the general alienation produced by society.
          • He also see's the family as a major prop for the capitalist economy because the capitalist system involves the domestic labour of housewives who reproduce future generations of workers
          • The family also consumes the products of capitalism which allows the bourgeoisie (upper class) to keep producing them
        • Criticisms:
          • Somerville-
            • Argues that Zaretsky exaggerates the importance of the family and does not deal with other family issues like violence.
    • Criticisms of Marxist perspective:
      • Marxists tend to assume the nuclear family is dominant in capitalist society, this ignores the wide and increasing variety of family structures found in society today.
      • Feminists argue that Marxists emphasis on social class and capitalism underestimates that importance of gender inequalities within the family. In the feminist argue the family primary serves the interests of the men rather then capitalism.
      • Functionalist argue that Marxists ignore the very real benefits that the family provides for it's members such as intimacy and mutual support.
    • Radical Psychiatry and Marxism
      • Radical Psychiatry emerged in the 1960's and 1970's and is takes a critical view of family life especiallythe nuclear family.
        • Lang (1964)
          • Argues that the family can cause mental illness such as stress, depression and anxiety because parents and children spend too much time with each other
          • Parents expect too much of their children and their children become suffocated.
          • Laing wrote about a girl called Jane who became schizophrenic and thought she was a tennis ball because of the way in which she was bounced between parents emotionally.
        • Cooper (1972)
          • Takes a more Marxists approach to the family and focuses particular on how children are treated.
          • He argues that parents  each children to be obedient so when they go to work they are easily controlled
          • Parents make children aim at getting "respectable" jobs, and any dreams are stamped out.
          • Parents are the capitalists or bosses, and the children become the proletariat or workers
        • Leech (1967)
          • Argues that the Nuclear family is too isolated and lacks the support of the extended family
          • This puts too much pressure on the parents who lack emotional support and often take out their anger and frustration on each other and their children
        • Criticisms:
          • Functionalists would go on to say that they directly ignore the positive parts of the family
          • They are accused of being pessimistic, for example, Leech ignores the contacts that are maintained between nuclear an extended family members.

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