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Marxists view of the family Cheat Sheet by

WJEC AS paper 1 understanding sociology


-Many views have come from Karl Marx, his ideas inspired for the foundation for communist society
-Marxists is a structural conflict perspe­ctive
-The tradit­ional Marxist view on families is that they perform a role not for everyone in society but for capitalism and the ruling class (the bourge­oisie)
-In many ways Marxism and functi­ona­lists say very similar things about families: both recognise that the family passes on idea and values and both see the family members as part of a economic unit.
-Diffe­rence is that marxists think the family is bad for society.


To conclude, Marxist views have strengths such as offering an explan­ation as to why families first developed in society as to fit the needs of a capitalist society.
-The main idea is that the family is in place in order to benefit the capitalist society.
-it can’t be criticised as a family is seen in terms of an economic relati­onship to society, and this may be seen as to simpli­stic.
-Family acts as a unit of consum­ption and teachers passive acceptance of hierarchy. It is also the instit­ution through which the wealthy pastor and their private property to their children Thos reprod­ucing class inequa­lity.
-Nuclear family performs ideolo­gical functions for capita­lism.


-focused on class inequality and overlooks other inequa­lities.
-only looks at economic relati­onships and overlooked the range of reasons for their actions.

Socialise children into a capital society

They believe that the purpose of the family is to socialise children into th norms of capitalist society through the acceptance that the father is dominant and in control.
-through this they are learning that there are positions of power in the capitalist society e.g principle, teacher, pupils in education.
-teaching children to accept inequality (Althu­sser).
-Althusser argued the key function of the family is to teach the next generation to obey and submit to the upper class i.e the bourge­oisie.
-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.
-Althusser believes that the role of family is to produce a submissive workforce.
- the family is described as an ideolo­gical apparatus, it socialises people to think in a way that justifies inequality and encourages people to accept the capitalist systems as fair, natural and unchan­geable- simuular to roles in family which mirrors hierarchy.
critic­isms: it is too determ­inistic as it assumes people accept social­isation and family life and that future is pre-de­ter­minded. There are plenty of families who bring their children up as idepen­dent.

family is a unit of consum­ption

family is a unit of consum­ption as they purchase goods and services.
-Marxists believe that the nuclear family performs ideolo­gical functions for capitalism because of this, also generate profits for the bourge­oisie.
-in order to make profit capita­lists must create demand for their products, family builds demand for goods in number of ways:
1. Families must keep up with material goods/­ser­vices aquired by their neighb­our­s&­peers e.g holidays.
2. Pester power, ads by companies in media targets children.
Critic­isms: Feminists critise the view of the family serving only the interests of the bourge­oisie, believing that the family serve the interests of men rather than the bourge­oisie.

Ensure women are controlled

Marxist theory believe the purpose of the family is to ensurethat women are contro­lled.
-Women carry out many unpaid jobs in daily life, common examples being cooking, cleaning and childcare.
-This labour us unpaid but families still support other workers therefore benefi­tting capita­lism.
-Marxist feminists explain that the unpaid labour of women is a way to exploit them and it is done for free thereofre benefits both men and the capitalist society.
-Capit­alism would not exist withoutn this unpaid labour because workers would not be able to take care of their children and the house.
-This prevents women from having a personal life, so they are therefore contro­lled.
Critis­isms: this is outdated, the idea of the 'New Man' who helps with housework and childcare; more women going out to work.

Men can relieve frustr­ations

Marxists believe that the family has the purpose of being the place where men can relieve their frustr­ations after a stressful and unpleasent day at work.
-This is so they are able to return to work feeling refreshed and therefore contribute to capita­lism.
-This is known as the functi­onalist 'warm bath theory.'
-Fran Ashley who is a Marxist Feminist believe when wives play their tradit­ional troles as 'takers of shit' they often absorb their husbands legitimate anger and frustr­ation in a way which poses no challenge to the system.
-Through this children are also taughtthe passive acceptance of the hierarchy and socialised into accepting capitalist values
-Zaretsk's cushioning effect is similar to Parson's theory of the Warm Bath Theory in the family acts as a relief from social stress and tension.
Critis­isms: Zaretsky's theory is clearly outdated, it assumes the worker is amle and that there is only one worker in the family. It also ignores other benefits that the family gets from family life e.g emotional support, comfort and generally the positive benefits.

Inheri­tance of wealth

Engels argued that the family had a clear economic function for capitalism by ensuring that wealth remained in the hands of the bourge­oisie.
Family relations, based on the clear legal contrast facilitate inheri­tance and therefore when rick people die it is their children who keep hold of their wealth.
-For Engels, family is all about blood lines and proof of parentage,
-Engels believes family has developed to become monogomous to ensure that family wealth is inherited.
-A monogomous relati­onship ensures child paternity and therefore assurance that the wealth will remain within the family.
-This enables Bourge­oisie families to remain wealth and continue to rule over the prolet­ariat and maintain class injustice.
Critic­isms: This can be criticised as nowadays achieved status through hard work and determ­ination is more valued than ascribed status that has been passed down. Functi­ona­lists would also critixised this as they believe the family performs positive functions.


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