The Marxist perspective on the family

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A-Level sociology Mind Map on The Marxist perspective on the family, created by romena98 on 05/01/2015.

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The Marxist perspective on the family
  1. Marxist sociologist see capitalist society as based on unequal conflict between two social classes. The capitalist class: who owns the means of production and the working class: whose labour the capitalist exploit for profit. This, for Marxist, the functions of the family are performed purely for the benefit of the capitalist society.
    1. Inheritance of property:
      1. Key factor determining the shape of all social institutions is the mode of production - who owns and controls society's productive forces. In modern society, it is the capitalist class that owns and controls these ,eans of production.
        1. In Engel's view, monogamy became essential because of the inheritance of private property - men had to be certain of their paternity of their children in order to ensure that their legitimate heirs inherited from them.
          1. As the forces of production developed, society's wealth began to increase. Along with the increased wealth came the development of private property, as a class of men emerged who were able to secure control of the means of production. This change eventually brought about the patriarchal monogamous nuclear family.
          2. Ideological functions:
            1. Marxist argue that the family today performs key ideological functions for capitalism. By "Ideology", Marxist mean a set of ideas or beliefs that justify inequality and maintain the capitalist system by persuading people to accept it as fair and inevitable.
              1. One way in which the family does this is by socialising children into the idea that hierarchy and inequality are inevitable. Parental power over children accustoms them to the idea that there are always has to to be someone in charge (usually a man) and prepares them for the working life in which they will accept orders from their capitalist employers.
                1. According to Eli Zaretsky (1976), the family also performs an ideological function by offering an apparent "haven" from the harsh and exploitative world of capitalism outside in which workers can be themselves and have a private life. However, Zaretsky argues that this is largely an illusion - the family cannot meet the needs of all its members. For example, it is based on the domestic servitude of woman.
                2. A unit of consumption
                  1. These functions maintain capitalist society: the inheritance of private property, socialisation into acceptance of inequality, and a source of profit. In Marxist view, while these may benefit capitalism, they do not benefit the members of the family.
                    1. Capitalism exploits the labour of the workers, making a profit by selling the products of their labour for more then it pays to produce it. The family therefore plays a major role in generating profits, since it is an important market for the sale of consumer goods.
                      1. The media target children, who use "pester power" to persuade parents to spend more.
                        1. Children who lack the latest clothes or "must have" gadgets are mocked and stigmatised by their peers.
                          1. Advertisers urge families to "keep up with the Joneses" by consuming all the latest products.
                        2. Criticisms of Marxist perspective:
                          1. Marxism tend to assume that the nuclear family is dominant in capitalist society. This ignores the wide and increasing variety of family structures found in society today.
                            1. Feminist argue that the Marxist emphasis on social class and capitalism underestimates the importance of gender inequalities within the fa,mi;y. In the feminist view, the family primarily serves the interests of men rather than capitalism.
                              1. Functionalists argue that Marxists ignore the very benefits that the family provides for its members, such as intimacy and mutual support.
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