The Marxist Perspective on Family


Marxists believe that the family is destructive and should be abolished, not promoted. 

From the 1960's onwards there was a growing awareness of problems in family life - for example, domestic violence and child abuse. This section focuses on the arguments that point to 'the dark side' of family life. 

Marxists reject the idea that society is based on value consensus and operates for the benefit of all. They see a basic conflict of interest between a small powerful ruling class and the mass of the population, the subject class or poletariat. The family is seen as one of a number of institutions which serves to maintain the position of the ruling class. 

Modern industrial societies have a capitalist economic system. Capitalism is based on the private ownership of economic institutions. The ruling class are seen to exploit the subject class - they gain at the workers' expense since their profits come from the workers labour. 

Marxists argue that the economy largely shapes the rest of society. A capitalist economic system will produce a certain type of society. Institutions such as the family, the education system and the political system are shaped by the requirements of capitalism and serve to support and maintain it. 

Engles - The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884)

Engles argued that the modern nuclear family developed in capitalist society. Private property is…


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