Marxist View Of The Family
Part of a Marxist essay on the family
Date : 17/04/2018
Examine Marxist Views on the role of the family (30 marks)A key feature of the Marxist perspective is the belief that society is centred around an unfair class division which is maintained through Capitalism. Marxists believe that the ruling classes, known as the bourgeoisie, use the different institutions in society to maintain their position over the working classes, known as the proletariat. Marxists argue that the family performs ideological functions, or a set of ideas or beliefs that reinforce inequality between the classes and persuades people that the capitalist system is a fair one. Althusser argued that a key function of the family is to teach the next generation to obey and submit to the upperclass, i.e. the bourgeoisie. Proletariat children are taught to accept hierarchy, for example, in schools pupils must obey the rules like wearing a uniform. This is mirrored in the home children from proletariat families are taught norms and values that correspond to this, for example, they will never be rich, they have no chance of social mobility and they must obey their employers i.e. the bourgeoisie in order to keep their jobs and survive. According to Althusser, the role of the family then is to provide a submissive workforce. Another important concept of the Marxist perspective is the inheritance of private property. Engels believes that the reason why the family developed to become monogamous is to ensure that family wealth is inherited. For example, when a father of a wealthy family dies, the money will automatically be passed to his next of kin, or whoever he has named in his will. A monogamous relationship ensures child paternity and therefore the assurance that the wealth will remain within the family. This enables Bourgeoisie families to remain wealthy and continue to rule over the proletariat and maintain the class injustice. Engels view of inheritance of private property supports the idea of the family being a tool for the maintenance of capitalism. Engels view is supported by social policy when a rich person dies the property they own is passed on to their children/kin. The same system might not work the same way in proletariat families as they often don t have property to give, therefore, it is clear in current society that the rich retain their wealth. This view, does however, ignore inheritance tax this is pumped back into the economy and so benefits society as a whole. Inheritance of private property does not only exist to serve capitalism because through inheritance tax bourgeoisie children (who inherit the money) are actually benefiting the rest of society. The final concept which Marxism contributes to sociology s understanding of the family is the argument that the family is a unit of consumption . For Marxists, the family plays a key role in generating profits for the bourgeoisie as it is an important market for the sale of consumer goods. For example, the media targets children who use pester power to persuade their parents to spend more.One issue with the Marxist theory is that it ignores the positive aspects of the family the suggestion is that the family is merely a tool for the ruling classes to control the working class. It should follow then, that working class families are a burden to each other- most families do not feel this way about each other and so it is a weakness of the theory as it does not take into account the positives, giving an inaccurate view of what family life is really like. For instance, Functionalists believe that the role of the family is to educate and provide support for members of society, for example, teaching children important norms and values. In this way, the family is a central and beneficial institutional for all of society. Parsons, a functionalist, also believes that the family offers a stable and stress relieving base for all its members, which is known as the warm bath theory. His view is that the family provides comfort and security for all of its members, which again, is valuable for society. Similarly, feminists argue that Marxists place too much emphasis on class conflict and not enough on the gender inequalities that exist between men and women. Instead they argue that Marxists are overlooking the role of patriarchy which creates inequalities between men and women. A further criticism of Marxism is the assumption that the nuclear family is the most dominant type in society and through this, they ignore other family types. Today, in Britain there are a diverse range of family types, with the nuclear family being just one of these. This raises the question of whether Marxism can help us to understand the family in contemporary society.
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