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AS SOCIOLOGY Family Theories

functionalist, marxist and feminist.

Joe Sephton

on 25 September 2015

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Transcript of AS SOCIOLOGY Family Theories

Theories of Family
Functionalist theories
Marxist theories
Feminist theories

Consensus/ positive views on family

Functionalist theories-
the family performs positive functions for individuals and society.
New Right theories-
the family is the cornerstone of society, but it is under threat.
Conflict/critical views on the family.
Feminist theories-
the family reinforces gender inequality and patriarchy.
Marxist theories
the family provides important functions for capitalism.
Key Terms
Functionalist views
Marxist views
Feminist views

Murdock argues that the family is a universal institution that performs four major functions:

Stable satisfaction of the sex drive with the same partner.
Reproduction of the next generation, without which society would not be able to continue.
Socialisation of the young into society’s shared norms and values.
Meeting its members’ economic needs, such as shelter and food.
Evaluation of GP Murdock
However, other sociologists have criticised his functionalist approach.

Talcott Parsons
the functions of the family
Two 'basic and irreducible' functions:
the primary socialisation of children.
the stabilisation of adult personalities.
Too deterministic.

Evaluation of Functionalism
analyses of the nuclear family tend to be based on middle class versions of the family.
neglect other influences such as ethnicity, social class or religion.
Feminists argue that as a result of this picture of the family, functionalists tend to give insufficient attention to the dysfunctions of the family.
From an interpretivist point of view, functionalists tend to neglect the meanings families have for individuals and how family members interpret family relationships.

Marxists believe that
the functions of the family are performed solely for the benefit of the capitalist system

Feminists take a critical view of the family, arguing that it oppresses women and reproduces patriarchy.

Marxist feminist
Marxist feminists suggest that the nuclear family meets the needs of capitalism.

**It benefits the powerful at the expense of the working class and women.**
Benston 1972
Different feminists would criticise Marxist feminists for assuming that all women are exploited equally under capitalism.
Black feminists would argue that Marxist feminists emphasis on women’s role within capitalism ignores black and Asian women’s experience of racism which is not faced by white women.
Radical Feminists
Kate Millett
Modern societies and families are characterised by patriarchy.
Diana Gittens
and the concept of age patriarchy.
Delphy and Leonard

see the family as a patriarchal institution.

Some would argue that these models are dated in that they fail to consider recent trends such as the feminisation of the workforce and women's use of divorce laws.
Overall evaluations of Feminist theories...
1 2 3 4 5

Feminist theories of the family have dated fairly badly.
Critics argue that feminists are preoccupied with the negative side of family life.
Feminists tend to assume that families are manipulated in some way.
From an interpretivist point of view, feminists tend to neglect the meanings families have for individuals.
Feminists assume that all women share similar experiences.

Engels argued that the need for the family arose when societies started to value private property.
Historically inaccurate.
Functionalists such as Parsons would reject Engels view of the development of the family.

Zaretsky: how the family benefits capitalism
The family serves capitalism by offering emotional security from the oppressive world of work
Jennifer Somerville argues that Zaretsky exaggerates the importance of the family as a refuge from life in capitalist society.
Althusser and Poulantzas: the ideological role of the family
The family can be seen as serving the functions of an ideological state
Feminists argue that Althusser and Poulantzas ignore the fact that such a family ideology supports patriarchy.
Overall evaluation of Marxist theories.
1 2 3 4

Marxist views of the family follow logically from Marxist theory.

Feminists argue that the Marxist emphasis on social class and capitalism underestimates the importance of gender inequalities.
Functionalists argue that Marxists ignore the very real benefits that the family provides
Interpretivists believe Marxists tend to neglect the meanings families have for individuals.
Full transcript