Marx and the Family Revisited
Feeley, Dianne http://www.solidarity-us.org/site/node/4383
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/03/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20927
A book review: Marxism and the Oppression of Women Toward a Unitary Theory, by Lise Vogel.
Ferguson and McNally tackle a question that Vogel doesn't explain: Why did Marx assume that capitalist development would disintegrate families of the working class? As they point out, the state would find itself forced to intervene to protect the working class precisely because, under conditions of early English factory life, it was not able to reproduce the next generation of laborers.
Legislation was passed starting in 1842 limiting child labor, curtailing hours of work for women and children and restricting women from certain occupations (such as mining, but not domestic service). These had the effects of shoring up the working-class family and reasserting gender differences.
The working class campaigned to defend itself through passage of such legislation. Thus the working-class family under capitalism is shaped by struggles between the working class and capital, and within classes as well. For the capitalists, the family provides the main source of labor power, essential to production; for the working class, it is the site that provides lasting emotional bonds -- caring, brutal or somewhere in between.