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June 13, 2013 / C H Thompson

Marxist views of the family

Marxist functions of family2bRevision image

Marxists see the role of the family quite differently to that of functionalists.

Marxism is a challenging theory to understand therefore before you read anymore content on the Marxist view of thei_heart_marxism family it’s best if you get a broader understanding of Marxism.  complete with a powerpoint explaining Marxism at an accessible level.

At a very basic level Marxists believe the nuclear family is a tool of the ruling class, an institution used to teach its members to submit to ruling class authority.

Early on Marx saw the family as a mechanism through which private property (a key part of capitalism) could beMarxism passed on heirs – as parents living in a monogamous relationship would know who impregnated whom!!! This way it was an ideal mechanism for the proof of paternity. You can see how much women were second-class citizens in the Victorian period, as they married in order in achieve economic security in exchange for sex and providing heirs.

Althusser (1971) a French Marxist, argued that in order for capitalism to survive people must be taught how to think
and behave, and the family (as well as schools and the mass media) was the best mechanism for doing this. Marxists argue ideology is the best tool (Marxism is known as an instrumental approach) for getting people to think and behave in a way you want them to.

Therefore through the process of socialisation family immerses its members into a false consciousness (for example unlike functionalists which see the family as a harmonious institution, Marxists see the family as a place of conflict, with unequal relations of power between its members. This becomes analogous to the inequalities in society).

Contemporary Marxists like Zaretsky (1976) add more weight to the argument the family is simply there as an aid to capitalism because:

  • the capitalist system is built on the domestic labour of housewives who produce future workers
  • at the same time, the family consumes the products of capitalism, which perpetuates the profits for the ruling-class

Criticisms – this traditional Marxist perspective is now seen as very dated as it fails to recognise all the other reasons women get married. Indeed these day’s women are far less likely to get married, especially for economic security, or if they do choose to marry they do so for love and affection.

Test your knowledge here test-knowledge-of-the-family-4





Leave a Comment
  1. Lucy / Nov 20 2013 10:35 pm

    Thank you soo much, I get it now. It only says on our revision book, heredity of property, ideological control and unit of consumption. It didn’t really expand much on it. So again, thank you

  2. tian / Feb 21 2014 5:34 pm

    I still don’t see the marxists’ definition of the term but i got their concept of the topic though. its kool. thanks iight. =)

  3. Lucia Mswaphi / Sep 25 2015 8:20 pm

    thank you very much now I understand the Marxist view on family

    • C H Thompson / Sep 28 2015 2:21 pm

      Glad it helped and thanks for the feedback 🙂

  4. Debasish Chakraborty / Jun 16 2016 11:04 am

    Thanks for brief and clear explanation of family system under capitalism.

    • C H Thompson / Jun 20 2016 9:25 am

      Many thanks for such a positive comment 🙂

  5. Gerty Merline Sibz / Mar 3 2017 9:24 am

    thanx the explanation

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