Social Structure

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Social Structure


This essay will begin by describing the three spheres that tie society together. The main institution of society is the family or household which is broken up into thousands of units. Secondly, it will discuss the economic institution and its ties to the family. The use of labour power and how that effects the power struggle with the capitalist marketplace will also be discussed. Lastly, the political institution of government will be shown along with its relationships to the family and the families ability to create reform and change regulation.

One of the main institutions in society in the household or family. It is here that almost all the consumption in society takes place. It is also here that almost all the labour power in society originates. The make-up of the family is not as "cut and dry" as it once was. The nuclear family is dead and what has replaced it has put all old theories about the family to the test.

One major change has been the rise of the dual-earner family. In 70% of households today there is no single breadwinner. (Burggraf, 1997:54) Women's position in the family has been changed radically from that of one-hundred years ago. Three important issues have been raised about women's position in the family. One is that the development of gender inequality within the family is a result of the changing economy. This being the extra accumulation of property in private households. The second issue is that capitalism being the only form of economy we are familiar with pushes for the working of every family member to create a strong economy. Lastly, the evolution of the family dispersed from economic development and instead become a more social issue. (Wilson, 1982:37)

Because the position of women in the family has been so altered from past history, projections made, even forty years ago, are increasingly wrong. Though, even with the changing structure of the family the economic labour power has not significantly increased. The role of housewife in the post-industrial age was just as important to women as today's dual earning household. The housewife was the counter-part to the husbands role of breadwinner. It was the wife who cleaned the husbands clothes, prepared his food and provided emotional support, without which he could not fulfill his role as breadwinner. (Burggraf, 1997:174)

With the evolution of the labour market and capitalist economy with the ever increasing consumption of the family unit the homemaker was called to enter the workforce. In 1901 only 12% of Canadian women were economically active, however, in 1961 there were 29.5% economically active. (Wilson, 1982:71). This percentage has gotten exponentially bigger with time. In 1981, 54% of women with dependent children were economically active.(Purdy, 1988:203)

Another facet of the economic family unit is reproduction. The goal of the family unit is to produce children, which in turn expands the labour force, which creates a larger economic base. In Canadian families the emphasis is on quality not quantity and because of this there are gaps in the unskilled labour force. It is only through immigration that the capitalist economy has been able to keep up with the demand for cheap unskilled labour. (Purdy, 1988:229)

So the value of labour power is determined outside capitalism, in non-capitalist units that maintain and reproduce labour power...families. Corporations produce wealth in the form of goods and services and a can last well beyond an individuals life span. Capitalism is a powerful institution with holds on the economy, political state and family as well. The payment of wages allows the corporations to grow and continue to produce goods and exploit workers. (Bailey, 1974:127)

Families consume. In the modern era, most families are not units of production and consumption, mainly just consumption. They do not accumulate wealth, but simply take the wage and spend it on commodities that satisfy their needs. As Karl Marx put it, "if I exchange a commodity [labour power] for money, buy a commodity for it and satisfy my need, then the act is at an end." (Smith, 1982:29) Families have a limited life span, related to the cycle of growth and decline of individual family members. The family, unless it has property, will inevitably decline to

Related Topics

Marxian economics Breadwinner model Family economics Capitalism Labour power Economic system Reproduction Capitalist mode of production Economics Family Capital: Critique of Political Economy Criticism of capitalism one hundred years labour power gender inequality private households economic institution power struggle political institution evolution of the family breadwinner nuclear family test one social structure spheres forty years accumulation housewife family member capitalism pushes economic development

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