marxist perspective of the family

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Marxism and the family
Similarities between Marxism and Functionalism
Marxism and Functionalism are both examples of macro or structural theories. Both
are mainly interested in how the family contributes to the overall running of society
rather than how people experience family life on a daily basis. Like functionalists, then,
Marxists are keen to find out what the overall purpose or function of the family is for
The Marxist theory of capitalist society
Marxists reject the functionalist view that society is based on value consensus and
therefore operates for the benefit for all. Instead they argue capitalist society is
organised around conflict between social classes and exploitation rather than social
order (as functionalists believe).
The most important part of capitalist society, according to Marxists, is the economy
which they call the `economic infrastructure'. Marxists note that capitalist societies
are based on competition. Members of the capitalist class or bourgeoisie compete with
each other to produce manufactured goods via factory production. This elite controls
the wealth or capital of society and consequently owns the `means of production', i.e.
the factories, the technology and machines etc.
However, the capitalist class needs the labour power of the majority class, the working
class or proletariat. Marxists argue that the relationship between the capitalist class
and the working class (known as the social relations of production) is characterised by
exploitation because the wages of the working class do not reflect the true value of
the work that they do for the bourgeoisie. The difference between the wage paid and
the true value of the work done by the proletariat is known as surplus value. This is
pocketed by the capitalist class and is the source of their great wealth. The capitalist
infrastructure therefore is characterised by great class inequalities in income and
This exploitation is a potential problem for the capitalist class because if the working
class become conscious that they are being exploited, they may rise up in a violent
revolution against the capitalist class.
Marxists argue that the bourgeoisie has created something called the `superstructure'
to deal with this potential problem. The superstructure is made up of social institutions
such as the family, the education system, the mass media, religion and the political
system. The main function of the superstructure is to socialise people into ruling class
or bourgeois ideology ­ a set of ideas that convince those at the bottom of society
Capitalist society is fairly organised.
That those at the top of society deserve their success.
That those at the bottom of society are there as a result of their own
shortcomings, e.g. they have not worked hard enough, they are not bright enough

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These ideas are presented as `facts' but in reality they are falsehoods because the
capitalist system is organised by the capitalist class to benefit themselves and their
Marxism and the family
Functionalists are very positive about the institution of the family and see it as good
for both society and the individual.…read more

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Engels saw the bourgeois nuclear family an institution that oppressed women
since they were economically dependent on males. Engels ideas were therefore
influential on the development of Marxist feminism.
Engels timeline of the family
Primitive communism hunters gather food such as berries people live in a
classless society matriarchy group marriages. No such thing as the family as
it was not required.…read more

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This view presents a much more critical view than
Parsons functionalist view that the family stabilises adult personalities and acts as
a `warm bath'. In Zaretsky's theory the comforting device performed by the family
simply functions to benefit the capitalist class.
Bourdieu- the family reproduces and reiterates social class differences.…read more

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Women are a reserve army of
labour. They are hired when the economy is booming or when there is war but will be
the first to be laid off during an economic downturn or when the men return from war.
Advantages and disadvantages of the Marxist and Marxist feminist theory of the
Like functionalists Marxists see the nuclear family as performing vital functions for
society.…read more


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