Assess the Marxist View of the Role of the Family.

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Marxism is a conflict theory that sees society as being based on class divisions and exploitation. Marxists see all institutions in capitalist society as contributing to the maintenance of exploitation. The family is seen as an oppressive institution that performs several important functions for capitalism.

 According to Engels (1884), a Marxist, a man wants to know that the children in his family are his own children, so this has led to monogamous marriages. If a man knows that the children are his, his money and property (wealth) are then kept in his family, meaning that when he dies his children would get the money and the property. This essentially means that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor (circle of deprivation) as a family’s wealth would stay in the family and will not be shared with anyone who is outside that family. For example, if a family is from a middle- class background, the children within that family will remain rich as they will inherit their family’s wealth. If a family, however, is from a working-class background, the children would remain poor as their family’s status would be what determines their status later on in life. So, it seems as though the role of the family is to benefit capitalism because as the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.
However, having said that, Engels’ view of the family can be challenged by other sociologists because it is considered out of date, therefore it lacks validity. For example, today, if a person is born in a poor family, they have a chance to work for their own status- they do not necessary have to stay poor just because their family is poor.

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Zaretsky (1976), another Marxist, argues that the role of the family is to help capitalism as men have no power at work but have power over their family.  So, for example, if a man is ill-treated at work by his boss, he can go home and his wife can act as a ‘safety valve’- she can relieve his frustration, meaning that he can then go back to work the next day feeling happy. This therefore benefits the ruling class as the man would continue working effectively meaning that the ruling class would be able to earn more money.
However, Zaretsky’s ...

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