When you’re stuck on this type of question the best thing to do is use material from other perspectives / positions to criticise Marxist ideas (eg. feminist contention that Marxists focus too much on economic exploitation and neglect idea of patriarchal exploitation).
Alternatively, you can question a range of Marxist arguments:
A safety valve for (male) frustrations: is the contemporary family really as violent an institution as some Marxists claim?
Channelling and legitimising the exploitation of women: neglects to consider female views and behaviours [just remembered - could use someone like Hakim here].
Free services for capitalism: In a general sense true, but neglects to consider the sociological and psychological benefits of family life.
Stabilising force in (Capitalist) society: Is this necessarily a bad thing (that family groups promote social stability?).
Consumers of products: When family group was productive force in society living standards were general very low for vast majority. Is this change necessarily bad?
Finally, you could apply some general postmodern arguments:
Marxism puts forward narrow (or prescriptive) views about what families are and how they should be.
Postmodern perspectives emphasise diversity and choice in contemporary family units, two concepts that reflect postmodern ideas about behaviour and lifestyles.
Sociological perspectives such as Marxism are hopelessly outdated in their view of societies and individuals. A family is whatever people want it to be (whether it involves adults of the opposite sex, the same sex, own children, adopted children or whatever). From this perspective, therefore, the relationship between families and the social structure is largely meaningless for two reasons:
Firstly, they reject the idea of social structures - which makes trying to identify and isolate any relationship between family groups and something that doesn’t exist (social structures) a fairly pointless exercise.
Secondly, they reject the idea we can talk, in any useful way, about “the family”; all we have, in effect, is a variety of people living out their lives and lifestyles in ways they believe are acceptable and appropriate to how they want to live.
Hope this helps
Last edited by Chris.Livesey; 21-05-2007 at 16:22.
Marxists see the nuclear family as serving the ruling class (bourgeoisie) as it promotes capitalist values and discourages disagreement and criticism of inequality the way capitalism is organized.
In particular nuclear family is seen as an ideological apparatus (Marxists believe that this is any institution that is involved in the transmitting of the ruling-class e.g., mass media education etc.).
Marcuse (1964) claimed that working class families are encouraged to purchase false needs in the form of the latest consumer goods, which he said, served the interest of capitalism rather then the consumers’, as it stimulated the economy and kept workers distracted from seeking equality and justice.
Marxists argue that the family reproduces and maintain this false class-consciousness through primary socialization, which stresses the children that happiness and status lies in material possessions.
The way in which traditional families are organised (the male as the leader of the household) encourages passive acceptance of authority, obedience, hierarchy and inequality – qualities that are well suited to a conformist factory workforce. In these ways nuclear family benefits the capitalist class.
Marxist argue that the working class extended family has deliberately been discouraged by the capitalist ruling class as it emphasises on a mutual support system (a system in which family members work to support each other) and collective shared action encourages its members to be aware of social class position is regarded as threatening because it may eventually challenge the wealth and power of the capitalist class.
Feminist Marxists argue that woman’s oppression benefits capitalism. Bruegel argues that woman’s unpaid domestic labour helps to maintain capitalist exploitation by reproducing the labour force at no cost to the employer.
The first bit of advice is good and worth remembering but, not wishing to sound rude, I think even AQA have now got past the stage of thinking Engels' work on family life is either important or particularly relevant.
The key thing to remember for the exam is "Keep It Contemporary" (if at all possible).