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Conflict theory – based on class inequalities
Bourgeoisie – the owners of the means of production (ruling class)
Proletariat – those who are exploited for their labour (working-class)
Sees societies institutions as helping maintain class inequality and capitalism.
Functions of the family are purely for the benefit of capitalism not for the benefit of individual family members
The family makes up part of the superstructure of society.
Nature of family is shaped by the economic base.
Family functions to benefit the ruling class
Argued that in the early stages of family development there was no private property therefore the family didn’t exist – this was therefore called primitive communism where people lived in promiscuous hordes and have few rules limiting sexual relationships
States the nuclear family which is based on monogamy only developed with the emergence of private property and capitalism. This was believed to have happened due to private property becoming more and more important, and the monogamous nuclear family provided the most efficient means of ensuring transmission of property through inheritance.
Saw the Bourgeoisie nuclear family as oppressing women since they were economically dependent on males, leading to his influential role in Marxist-feminism.
Against - criticised on the grounds that monogamous relationships and the nuclear family have been found to exist throughout history and didn’t simply come about as a result of capitalism
For – support for the notion of free sexual relations in primitive human societies by examining the behaviour of our nearest relations - chimpanzees
Identified 3 distinct functions that they see the family as fulfilling for capitalism;
Inheritance of property – families must be monogamous so that when the father dies, he knows his children are legitimate so can inherit his private property.
Ideological functions – families socialise their children into accepting that hierarchies and inequality as inevitable. Families also perform an ideological function of providing a ‘haven’ from the harsh world of capitalism.
A unit of consumption – firstly the media targets children, as they use ‘pester power’ to persuade parents to spend more. Secondly advertisements encourage families to ‘keep up with the joneses’ by consuming the latest products. Finally, children who lack the latest clothes or gadgets are stigmatised by peers.
Assume the nuclear family is dominant which ignores the wide variety of family structures
Feminists argue that Marxists emphasise on class and capitalism and underestimates the importance of gender inequalities within the family.
Functionalists argue that Marxists ignore the very real benefits that the family provides for its members.