Marxist views of the family
Marxists believe that society is based on conflict between two main groups: the bourgeoisie (the rich and powerful – they own the businesses) and the proletariat (everyone else – they work for the bourgeoisie). Marxists see society as unequal and unfair because it is a capitalist society. In capitalist societies only a small group of rich and powerful people (the bourgeoisie) own and control the means of production (e.g. factories and businesses). The bourgeoisie pay the proletariat to work for them. The proletariats own nothing, so they are forced to work for the bourgeoisie in order to survive. The bourgeoisie exploit (take advantage of) the proletariat, in order to make as much profit as possible. They do this by paying their workers very little and selling what they make for a huge profit.
- The family maintains class inequalities.
- The family is a tool used by the bourgeoisie to produce a cheap workforce: socializing children to be passive, hardworking and obedient workers. For example, children learn to obey the authority of their father who is the authority figure in the family. This prepares children to later obey the authority of their bosses at work.
- The family provides a refuge for tired and frustrated male workers: male workers release their tensions and frustrations from work onto the family, which means they return to work refreshed and ready to work hard (and make more profit for the bourgeoisie).
- The nuclear family is an ideological apparatus (an institution which transmits bourgeoisie ideas), promoting bourgeoisie values and ways of thinking (e.g. value of consumerism).
- The family’s consumption keeps the capitalist economy going and distracts the proletariat from discovering their ‘real’ identity as exploited and oppressed workers – maintaining the false class consciousness (proletariat are unaware of their true identity as exploited workers).
Zaretsky sees the family as a major prop to the capitalist system – the capitalist economy is based on the domestic labour of housewives who reproduce future workers. Families’ buys goods such as T.V. and washing machines, generating profit for the bourgeoisie and keeping them rich.
- Focus on class conflict; failing to consider other factors such as ethnicity and gender
- Ignore agency and choice – surely people are not simply ‘brainwashed’ by the ideology of the bourgeoisie?
- The division of people into a rich minority and a poor majority fails to recognise the rising numbers of middle class people.