Marxism Views on the Family


  • Key factor in determining the shape of all social institutions, including family, is mode of production.
  • Mode of production is the organisation or type of society.
  • As the mode of production changes, so does the family.
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Marxism - Inheritance of Property

  • The family evolved through a series of changes to its present state, the nuclear family.
  • The family type has developed with the emergence of private property.
  • State introduced laws to protect the system of private property and the nuclear family provided a solution to the inheritance of private property.
  • Property was owned by males and they needed to be certain of legitimate inheritance of heirs.
  • Therefore, greater control of women was needed so there would be no doubt of paternity.
  • Monogamous nuclear family provided most efficient way to do so.
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Marxism - Ideological Functions

  • Family performs ideological functions for capitalism.
  • Family does this by socialising children into belief that hierarchy and inequality are inevitable (parental power accustoms children to idea that someone will always be in charge and school prepares for work where they will accept orders from capitalist employers).
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Marxism - Unit of Consumption

  • Generate profits for capitalist society.
  • Important market for the sale of consumer goods.
  • Advertisers urge families to 'keep up with the Jonses' by consuming latest gadgets.
  • Media target children who then use 'pester power' to persuade parents to spend more.
  • Children who lack latest clothes and gadgets are mocked by peers.
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Criticisms of Marxist Views

  • Marxists assume nuclear family is dominant in capitalist society and ignore family diversity.
  • Feminists say their emphasis on social class and capitalism underestimates the importance of gender inequalities within the family.
  • Functionalists say they ignore very real benefits of family, e.g. mutual support.
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Marxism - Zartesky

  • Family performs an ideological function by offering an apparent 'haven' from harsh world of work.
  • HOWEVER: it is an illusion and family cannot always meet the needs of its members.
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