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- Marxism is a sociological theory.

- It is a conflict theory, which means that it believes that society is based on

inequality and unequal distribution of power and wealth.
- It explores capitalist industrialised societies.
- This inequality is linked to social class the ruling class (bourgeoisie) and
the working class (proletariat).
- Marxists think the family is a bad thing because it helps maintain capitalism
and inequality by socialising children to accept and not question their place
in society. It also maintains traditional gender roles, which keeps the men in
- Marxism is political as well as sociological.
- They believe that capitalism is not a good thing and they would prefer
society to be communist (i.e. the wealth is shared equally between all
- They also believe society is based on economic forces and relationships,
unlike functionalists who think society is based on value consensus (the
sharing of common norms and values).
- Without the economy, nothing is possible.
A diagram to illustrate inequality in Capitalist society (up to 1930s):
Large group with
less wealth and
Small group with lots
of wealth and capital
Control +
The proletariat work for the
bourgeoisie because the
bourgeoisie own the means
of production (e.g. factories).
The proletariat are exploited
but the bourgeoisie have to
be careful not to exploit
them too much or it could
lead to a revolution.
Why things are different
- Benefits.
- More rights for workers.
- More healthcare.
- Age restrictions in jobs.

- Capitalist society is based on conflict.
- This conflict is between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
- The conflict occurs because the bourgeoisie wants to increase profits,
which is done by keeping proletariat wages low. Higher wages mean lower
- This creates a situation of exploitation and alienation for the proletariat.
- Revolution is prevented along with radical social change by the presence of
dominant ideologies which are taught through agents of secondary
socialisation, including religion, media, and education.
Things that are still the same:
- 1% of the UKs population own
over 90% of the wealth.
- We are still controlled by
- There is still inequality and
hierarchy, even if it is to a lesser
- The UK is still a Complex
Capitalist society.
Things that are different now:
- We now have more rights e.g.
age limits, maternity/paternity
leave, benefits, and health and
- We have a middle class which
doesnt really fit into the
bourgeoisie or the proletariat.
- There is now a minimum wage
and trade unions.
- There is more equality now e.g.
Equal Pay Act 2010.
- There is more social mobility.
- The family is there to benefit the economy, not the family members.
- The family may exist in historical societies but its not universal Marx
disagrees with Murdock.
- The family has changed over time to adapt to the needs of the economy.
- The family socialises its members into accepting powerlessness and
hierarchical control.

The family serves capitalism in 4 ways:
- The family socialises children, thereby reproducing both labour power and
an acceptance of capitalism (false consciousness).
- Womens domestic work is unpaid which benefits capitalism.
- The family acts as a safety valve for the stresses of working class men.
- The family is a unit of consumption so buys goods and services produced by

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)

Karl Marx himself didnt pay much attention to the role of the family. It was his
friend and collaborator Engels who attempted to trace the evolution of the
family through time in The Origin of the Family.

Engels conclusions:
- The monogamous bourgeoisie nuclear family developed to help solve the
problem of the inheritance of private property men needed to know who their
children were in order to pass on their property to their heirs.
- The family is therefore designed to control women and protect property.
- It is patriarchal it is designed to guarantee and perpetuate male power
through the inheritance of property.
- It therefore serves the interests of capitalism.

Engels said that the housewifes position is that of a glorified prostitute, which
- There is male dominance.
- Women lack independence.
- There is a link to the warm bath theory women are just there to please men.
- Women produce the heirs for the men.
Eli Zaretsky (1970s)
- Zaretsky claims that the family props up capitalism.
- This is because the family is the one place where men can feel they have power
and control. This helps them accept their oppression in wider society.
- The family is used to provide emotional support for workers. Whereas they
might feel disillusioned at work because of a lack of control, at home the male
worker feels like the king of the castle.
- This is similar to the warm bath theory but he sees it as a negative aspect
rather than a positive aspect of the family.
- Children are socialised by their parents into accepting the inequalities of a
Capitalist society. They are taught to accept their place through primary

- Its difficult to see an alternative to the family.
- Most people would not regard themselves as being controlled by capitalism in
the family.
- Its too focused on the role of the economy.
- It ignores diversity of family forms in capitalist society e.g. single parents and
ethnic diversity.
- Functionalists would argue that the family has a positive role in society.

- Its a useful balance to uncritical views of the family e.g. Functionalism.
- It contributed to understanding the family as an ideology.
- It acknowledges the family as part of the state apparatus.
- It accounts for some of the darker elements of the family e.g. domestic
violence and child abuse.