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Compare and contrast functionalist and Marxist perspectives on the family

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Compare and contrast functionalist and Marxist perspectives on the family Functionalists have a consensus approach and look at the family on a macro scale. They believe that all parts of the family interrelate and if one thing does not work, the whole family will become dysfunctional. In this way functionalists say the family is like an organic analogy - where everything in society depends on each other. The founder of functionalism is Emile Durkheim. When analysing the family, functionalists focus on two main areas. 1) the functions that the family provides and the 2) the functional relationship between the family and other social systems i.e. the economy. There are two main functionalists who both hold slightly different views on the functions of the family. Murdock conducted a study of 250 societies in different cultures in the 1940's. He concluded that there was some form of nuclear family - must include children, economic co-operation, adults of both sexes and same residence - in all 250 societies. He said that the family has four basic functions, which are; 1. ...read more.


The founder of Marxism is Karl Marx who based Marxism around capitalism and said that in order for the country to become communist, the proletariat (working class) would have to overthrow the bourgeoisie (ruling class). Unlike functionalists, Marxists do not agree with value consensus and the promise of meritocracy. From a Marxist point of view society operates largely for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. This makes the family a very pivotal institution and it forms part of the superstructure so is therefore responsible for passing on bourgeoisie norms, values and beliefs. Marxists say that the family purpose is to maintain the position of the bourgeoisie so it is like a prop for capitalism. Marxist, Engels, did a study in 1972. He believed that the monogamous nuclear family developed in order to ensure property inheritance was being passed on to the true heirs. Husbands needed more control over their wives so there would be not doubt over the paternity of their offspring. The monogamous family was the most efficient way for this purpose. Zaretsky, another Marxist conducted his study in 1976 and concluded that the family was the key ingredient for capitalism as the family consumes the products of capitalism which then enables the bourgeoisie to keep profits up and allows the capitalist system to continue. ...read more.


They do not see the relationships of some families i.e. Parsons' warm bath theory, as important as its place in keeping the bourgeoisies profits up. Where functionalism has been criticised for ignoring conflict within the family and assuming that family life is a safe haven for everyone. It can also be said that Marxists are too deterministic as they exaggerate the importance of the economic system on family structures. Although the two theories are very opposite to each other, as functionalism gives a positive view on the family and Marxism is quite negative about the family. Both are fairly dated considering the changes within the family and the rise of alternative types of household. An alternative perspective on the family that would criticise both Marxism and functionalism is feminism. Feminists would arguer that the two do not discuss the effects of family life on women. The feminist study looks at other areas of family life like domestic violence and housework. They also challenge traditional views of male dominance in the family. Feminism is a micro study as it focuses more on the affects families can have on women as individuals. ?? ?? ?? ?? Christina Oyediran H8 Sociology-D.I ...read more.

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