AO1 – What do Marxists believe? Marxism 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 Marxists, therefore, the functions of the family are performed solely for the benefit of the capitalist 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.
Women are dually oppressed by patriarchy and capitalist ideology. Both systems oppress women for the benefit of men. Families within capitalism require women to be a source of unpaid domestic work to ensure that the man can go to work. Women are also exploited in that they are expected to provide outlets for all the frustration and anger that their husbands experience at work and therefore prevent them from rebelling against their employers. Silvia Federici (2012) argues that many women are now forced into productive and reproductive labour, resulting in a “double day”.
The family creates and perpetuates capitalist ideology so that the needs of the economy can be met. This theory highlights the role of the family in relation to other institutions such as education and the economy.
Class may be less relevant to our understanding of the family today while other factors may now be more relevant, for example, ethnicity.
This perspective does not take into account the way that people today may have greater agency in deciding how they themselves choose to construct their family life.