The Marxist View of the Family



- Critical views of the role of the family and how it serves the needs of the elites in society and impacts on the working class.

- Key Marxist sociologists include:

  • Friedrich Engels
  • Louis Althusser
  • Eli Zaretsky
  • Arlie Hochschild

Engels' Evolution of the Family

- Engels suggested that the family unit and monogamy evolved in response to the private ownership of property.

- The need for legitimate heirs to pass on property led to the control of sexual behaviours and the development of monogamous relationships.

- Patrilineal inheritance meant that in order to be sure of a child's father, people formed monogamous relationships to protect claims on their property.

Evaluation of Engels' Theory

- Feminists critics have suggested that Engels sees the role of women and children as being influenced solely by economics; patriarchal control is another factor.

- Little historical evidence of the 'promiscuous horde' that Engels describes as pre-dating inheritance and monogamy.

- Infidelity still exists and paternity is not certain despite monogamous marriages.

Althusser's Theory of Ideological State


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