Theories of the family Marxism, Functionalism, Feminism
Marxism • Engels (1972): The family arose in response to the development of private property and for men to pass this property on to their offspring • Thus he saw the main function of the family as the reproduction of the capitalist system • Capitalism: System which believes that the rich (Bourgeoisie) exploit the poor (Proletariat) to maintain their wealth and power
Zaretsky (1976): The Capitalist system is based on the domestic labour of housewives who reproduce future generations of workers & the family consumes the products of Capitalism • Essentially, the family is a bad thing
Functionalism • Traditional family structures are necessary for social stability • The family transmits social norms and values to its members (primary socialization) • Argue that the family is universal (found everywhere) and functional (effective) • Essentially, the family is a good thing
Murdock (1949) • Some form of family structure is present in all societies – the family is universal • The 3 key functions: • Stabilizes sexual behaviour and reproduction • Provides basic economic requirements e.g. food and shelter • Socialization
Parsons (1959) • Not all functionalists however agree with ALL THREE of Murdock’s functions • Parsons saw there as being 2 main functions: • Stabilization of the adult personality by providing a “warm bath” from which to escape life’s pressures • Primary socialization
O’Connell (1994) • Because of family diversity, many different family types exist both within and across societies • Therefore, the family can only be defined by its FUNCTIONS
Feminism • Feminists have criticised the family for its impact upon women • Feminist work has introduced a previously male-dominated subject to areas of family life such as housework and domestic violence that often have negative implications for women • They have been particularly concerned with power relationships within the family
Marxist Feminism • The family and it’s exploitation of women serve the needs of Capitalism • Benston (1972): Because the man works to support his family (his traditional gender role) he is less likely to strike and so more likely to support Capitalism • Ansley (1972): The emotional support of wives acts as a “safety valve” for the husband’s frustration that is caused by his work
Radical Feminism • Sees the oppression of women as the most significant aspect of a patriarchal, male-dominated society • Delphy & Leonard (1992): The familyis a patriarchal and hierarchical institution through which men dominate women • Purdy (1997): Women’s disadvantages relate to their obligation to childcare
Germaine Greer (2000): Wives remain subservient to their husbands even though the increased divorce rate suggests women are less accepting of their oppression. Motherhood can be rewarding but is not valued by society enough to give it monetary reward.
Liberal Feminism • Looking for equality between the sexes • Somerville (2000): Women now have greater opportunities and choices available to them nowadays. Although many men do not fulfil their expected role as provider, many women still choose to accept a male partner.
Criticisms • What criticisms can you think of for each of the sociological theories on the family?