Using material from item 2B and elsewhere assess the Marxists view that the main role of the family is to serve the interest of capitalism. (24 marks) To fully assess the Marxist view that the main role of the family is to serve the interest of capitalism, Marxist is a conflict theory which sees all society’s institutions, such as the education system, the media, religion and the state, as helping to maintain class inequality and capitalism. For Marxist’s therefore, the functions of the family are performed solely for the benefit of the capital system. This view contrasts sharply with the functionalist view that the family benefits both society as a whole and the individual members of the family. Engels argued that the need for the family arose when societies started to value private property. With the rise of private property an organised system of inheritance became necessary – fathers needed to know who their offspring were in order to pass their property down the family line. With this, argues Engels, the need for monogamy arose – one man married one woman – and hence the family was created. Therefore the family serves the interests in economy – in this case the creation of ownership of property – while subjecting women to unequal power relations in the home. This helps capitalism because wealth is not shared around and stays in families. However, modern research has suggested that Engels’ interpretations of the development of the family are historically inaccurate. For example, monogamous marriage and the nuclear family are often found in hunter-gatherer groups. Since humans have spent the vast majority of their existence as hunter-gatherers, the idea that the nuclear family emerged as a response to private property is unlikely. Functionalists such as Parsons would reject Engels view of the development of the family. Rather than being a vehicle for passing down inherited wealth, the family plays an...
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