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Assess the Contribution of the Marxist approach to an Understanding of the Family

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Assess the Contribution of the Marxist approach to an Understanding of the Family Marxism is a macro, structuralist theory (much like functionalism) which focuses on the conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marxists see this conflict as being the main tool in the maintenance of capitalism, as it's key function is to create an obedient, docile, uncritical workforce who will work to support the upper-classes lifestyle and the economy. Marxists do not view the family in a positive manner and believe that it is a tool of capitalism. According to them the family reflects inequalities in society and serves as an ideological institution which transfers ruling class ideas and beliefs onto the next generation during their primary socialisation. Marxism offers a different perspective on the family and helps us to examine its more negative aspects and the affect that modern family values and norms have on the lower working class people (as they are the majority). Marxists organise society in two ways, the infrastructure and social superstructure. The superstructure maintains and legitimises the infrastructure whilst the infrastructure shapes the superstructure. ...read more.


Because of this society is instilled with a set of beliefs that justify inequality and maintain the capitalist system by persuading people to accept it as fair and natural or unchangeable ("The child is, in fact, primarily taught not how to survive in society, but how to submit to it" - Cooper). The family socialises the ideas of hierarchy and inequality. According to Eli Zaretsky (1976) the family offers a "safe haven from capitalism for workers to relax but this is only contrived and cannot meet its members needs." This function ensures that the ruling class is able to keep control over the working classes and works (as Marxists claim) to prevent a communist revolution. This function therefore maintains the current social infrastructure by ensuring there is no major upheavals in the system. Similarly, Marxists talk about the family as a unit of consumption, whose main function is to allow capitalism to exploit the labour of workers and to act as an important institution in the generation of profits and the market for the sale of consumer goods. This is achieved in three ways, by advertisers encouraging families to 'keep up with the Jones's' by consuming all the latest products, by ...read more.


They claim that the Marxist way of talking in terms of traditional gender roles can not be justified when there is so much diversity, greater choice and inequality in modern society. Where as functionalist criticism focuses on the Marxist view of the family as a negative institution and argues that Marxists ignore the very real benefits the family provides for its members such as intimacy and mutual support. Furthermore, feminists argue that the Marxist approach puts too much emphasis on social class and capitalism, stating that they underestimate the importance of gender inequalities within the family. In the feminist view, the family serves the interests of men, not capitalism. In conclusion, although Marxism provides a thorough critical approach of the family and takes into approach some of its more phenomenological aspects such as its darker sides, it doesn't give a wide enough view of the family for it to be truly relevant in modern society. The Marxist approach only applies to the nuclear family and ignores the fact that there are many other issues in society other than class such as gender inequalities. The Marxist view of the family must either explore and adapt to fit new trends in family structure or face becoming obsolete in this subject area. ...read more.

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