What is Marxism?
- It is a structural theory (behaviour is directed by the social structure).
- They reject the functionalist idea that society is based on consensus, instead they see society as being based on a conflict theory between those who own the means of production and those who keep it running.
- Marxist theory suggest that society is in a state of conflict between the rich and the poor.
- Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of businesses: bourgeoisie.
- Class divisions are a result of the differing relationships of people in society to the means of production: the proletariat lose out & end up exploited by the bourgeoisie.
- Marxists argue that the family is one of many institutions in society which keeps the imbalance of power in place, serving the interests of the ruling class. Class inequality is reproduced and maintained through primary socialisation in the family. The family is a result of class conflict, which is maintained thorugh systems such as inheritance.
- The family is a tool used by the capitalist system to produce a cheap workforce.
- The nuclear family is an ideological apparatus (an institution which transmits bourgeoisie ideas), promoting capitalist values and ways of thinking which reproduce and maintain capitalism.
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The family reproduces the capitalist system in the
- transmits capitalists values: teaching family members to be passive and submit to authority (husband), which prepares them for later submission to authority in the workplace.
- reproduces the future labour force: by giving birth to workers and socialising them. The family is dependant on the wages of male family members.
- the family provides a refuge for tired and frustrated male workers, providing an outlet for these frustrations- the alienation felt by male workers is released onto the family, rather than the capitalist system.
- the family's consumption keeps the capitalist market economy going and distracts the proletariat from discovering their 'real' identity as exploited and oppressed workers- maintaining the flase class consciousness.
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Friedrich Engels- 'The Origin of the Family, Priva
- German socialist who introduced a historical analysis of the origins of the family; connecting the family to the evolution of classes, property & the state- as the means on production changed, so too did the family.
- According to Engels, the modern nuclear family developed in capitalist society. As the male role developed into more specialised activities, men gained more control over wealth & property.
- Capitalist society brought the introduction of inheritance throught the male line to ensure that men maintained possession of their wealth and property.
- Key for capitalists was to make sure their wealth was passed on to a legitimate heir- the monogamous nuclear family supported this because when there was no DNA testing available, the nuclear family left no doubts over the paternity of children, so a man could be pretty certain that he had legitimate children to inherit his wealth.
- Engels argued that the family evolved into the monogamous nuclear family in ordr to secure paternity and inheritance, so that private property was protected.
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Eli Zaretsky (1976)
- Zaretsky sees the family as a major prop to the capitalist system- the capitalist economy is based on the domestic labour of housewives who reproduces future workers.
- The family consumes the product of capitalism & these enables the bourgeoisie to keep making a profit.
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Criticims of Marxism
- Is capitalist society really that unjust?
- Focus on the economic role of the family- what about family roles?
- Focus on class conflict; Marxists fail to consider other factors such as ethnicity.
- Ignore agency and choice- surely people are not simply 'brainwashed' by the ideology of the bourgeoisie?
- The polarisation of people into a rich minority and a poor majority fails to recognise the rising numbers of middle class people.
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